WORCESTER (CBS) — Senior Manasseh Konadu wasn’t real keen on the move at first and he had a lot of company.
“Well, initial reaction was one of shock,” he says, standing in the hallway at South High Community School. “We’re used to wearing hoodies all the time.”
Indeed, for students at both Burncoat and South High — the new school year brought hoodie banishment.
“It is a huge responsibility to keep everybody in your building safe,” says South High Principal Maureen Binienda.
After considering the ban for a couple of years, Binienda got a strong nudge over the summer from Worcester Police, concerned about gang violence creeping into the schools by way of hidden faces and big front pouches.
“And I have to be able to see who is in my building,” she says. “And I have to be able to identify them.”
The primary concern with hoodies is that some kids conceal much of their face by pulling the drawstrings tight, making it hard to determine who’s who at a glance, or even if they’re a student.
Some students also use the hood to hide earbuds and headphones in class.
So if a student shows up wearing a hoodie at either school now, it gets tossed in their locker and they get a traditional school sweatshirt for the day, if needed.
Jeanine Greenwich’s granddaughter doesn’t like it one bit.
“She loves her hoodies, that’s what she wears, but now they make her take it off,” says Greenwich. “I do understand why they’re doing it, though. They’re just trying to keep the kids safe.”
Trouble is, the hoodie has become a high school wardrobe staple and parents didn’t get a heads up on the new policy until a week or so before school.
So now, mothers like Diana Ortiz find themselves scrambling to shop for something else.
“I can’t afford it,” she says. “But they won’t let my son inside with the hoodie.”
Some 500 students have signed an online protest petition, but principal Binienda doesn’t sense a revolt in the works.
“I’ve actually only had one parents call,” she says.
“The explanation we got was very valid,” admits senior Konadu.
A growing number of stores and banks are banning hoods for much the same real world reasons.
“I’m just convinced if you don’t wear that hooded sweatshirts during school,” says principal Binienda, “It will make our community safer.”
So now, hoodies are going the way of backpacks. They’ll no longer roam the hallways at either school.
For kids who got used to changes like locked doors and a cop in the hallway in the name of security, it’s a different sort of adjustment.
“Kids, especially of our generation, don’t really look at the other side,” Konadu says. “But safety is the most important thing.”
Wearing hoodies is still OK in other Worcester schools, as it is at the discretion of the principal.