Posted on February 25, 2019

John Muir High Students Walk out of Class in Protest of Ban on Durags

Chris Lindahl, Pasadena Star-News, February 20, 2019

Students at Pasadena’s John Muir High School walked out of class Wednesday morning to protest a school policy that prohibits wearing durags.

The students say the ban on durags exists because administrators believe they’re associated with gangs. But for the students, the head coverings are an important part of black culture often used to create and preserve a hairstyle known as waves.

If a young black man wears a durag, it doesn’t mean he’s involved in criminal activity, they said.

It’s true students aren’t allowed to wear durags, Principal Lawton Gray said, but he challenged the students’ assertion that the ban comes from associations between gang culture and durags.

“The administration’s feeling is that, once again, durags are not to be worn at school,” he said in an interview. “It does not have to do with gang affiliation. It has to do with the values we have for how we present ourselves at school.”

Gray, who attended John Muir, said he wore a durag, also known as a wave cap, as a teen. But the time to wear a durag to protect waves is when you’re asleep, he said.

The Pasadena Unified dress code stipulates that “hats, caps and other head coverings shall not be worn indoors.” {snip}

The specific district-level policy against gang-related apparel stipulates that schools may prohibit “apparel that reasonably could be determined to threaten the health and safety of the school environment if it were worn or displayed on a school campus,” but it does not ban specific items of clothing.


More than 100 people walked out around 9:30 a.m., chanting, “I am not dangerous” and conducting a “wave check” — where students, phone cameras in hand, would gather around a student with waves and check out his flattened-out curls.

“Is this gang violence right here?” one protester asked the crowd. “No!”

Student Felicia Davis said wearing durags is not a violent act.

“They’re trying to take away who we are — our culture,” she said. “It is them trying to cleanse our ethnic beauty.”


The students said a double-standard exists in the school’s policies: Women are allowed to wear headscarves despite the ban on a similar accessory for men. {snip}