Friday, November 14, 2008


Solving the problem the wrong way, part XVII

Maybe it’s my naïveté. Maybe it comes from having lived a sheltered, teen-gang-free childhood. Maybe I should have been more into guns and cars and drugs and mayhem. Maybe all that, but I’m afraid I do not have the healthy fear of scarves that I ought to.

The administrators at Valley Central High School, in rural Montgomery, NY, however, are much more savvy than I. They have wisely taken the precaution of banning the wearing of scarves, as said scarves may be gang symbols!

Who knew?

Wait, did I say “wisely”? I’m sorry; that’s a typo. I meant to say “stupidly”. The school administrators who came up with this ridiculous plan are laughable buffoons. Of course, they won’t talk with the newspaper about it:

[Valley Central senior Amanda] Morrissey and more than a dozen other high school students came to stand against a new school policy against neckwear — from pashminas to knitted winter wear. The students say they were told that scarves are gang-related, and that one youth’s presumed affiliation means no one can follow the current fashion. Superintendent Richard Hooley was unavailable, and high school Principal Joanne Avella did not return a call for comment.

Where to start?

First, we’re talking about a standard fashion accessory, not some newly invented doo-dad that screams “Gang! Run!” People wear scarves. The kids’ parents are wearing scarves as I type this. The school administrators probably are too, or were before they created this silly rule.

Second, even if a few kids are sporting scarves as gang emblems, it has to be a minuscule minority. Almost all of the students who are wearing scarves are doing so because they like them (and, as winter approaches the frozen north, because they keep one warmer).

Third, does anyone really think that eliminating one symbol of gang affiliation will actually prevent gang members from identifying themselves? They’ll wear a particular sort of belt. A ring or bracelet. Argyle socks. They’ll turn their sleeves or collars up a certain way.

Finally, do attempts at blocking gang identification really solve any problems? Let’s work a little harder to break up the gangs themselves, and not worry so much about their fashion statements.

The school board is looking into the question.

[I also wonder how serious the gang problem is in Montgomery, a rural community some 10 miles west of Newburgh (where there certainly are problems of this sort), full of middle-class houses, farms, and golf courses. But perhaps it’s worse than one might think, and I won’t try to second-guess that aspect.]


Lisa Simeone said...

Give me pashmina or give me death!

W.M. Irwin said...

All of this flies in the face of how we viewed things as kids: "I'm an American, this is a free country, don't tell me what I can or can't do", etc. I don't think it's such a good idea to be imposing these superficial, arbitrary restrictions on our young people. They're liable to think it's the norm when they grow older and begin to lead. And then we can all just kiss whatever freedoms we have left goodbye!