FILLMORE : Students Tip Hats to Lifting of Ban

Fillmore High School officials lifted a 3-year-old ban of hats on campus Thursday, permitting students to wear headgear on a one-month trial basis.

"It's about time they let us wear hats," said junior Erika Pelkey from beneath the brim of a white straw hat. "It's freedom of expression."

Pelkey's hat was one of a few dozen chapeaux dotting the school's quadrangle during lunch yesterday. Baseball caps were represented in a variety of colors, with an occasional beret or floppy felt.

Students said they were pleased that administrators yielded to requests to give hats a chance.

"People are happy to see we can change rules," said sophomore Edgar Agundez, who worked for six months with others members of the school's House of Representatives to reverse the ban instituted by former Principal Jaime Castellanos.

Student representatives gathered 600 signatures on a petition and argued their case before administrators and faculty "with such a considered rationale and in such an adult manner that we couldn't ignore them," Assistant Principal Joseph Pawlick said.

Officials said the one-month trial period will be extended if students stay within guidelines set by the representatives.

A written announcement read in some classes this week said hats must not "distract a classroom or impede the educational process." Also, gang hats are not permitted.

Gang hats were the reason for the "no-hat" rule, Castellanos said Thursday from his office at Buena High School in Ventura, where he is now principal. "It wasn't a matter of rights, but of safety on campus," he said.

Although Castellanos said the majority of Fillmore High teachers supported the ban three years ago, sentiment appears to have changed.

"It's up to the kids now. If they blow it, they've at least had their chance," said special education teacher Patricia Baum. "Personally, I think we had more problems with kids trying to sneak (hats) in when we had a no-hats policy."

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