Sonoma Valley Sun


How three students changed policy at their Sonoma middle school 

Posted on June 18, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

By Cat Smith | Sonoma Valley Sun —

Adele Harrison Middle School has had a long-standing “no hoods” dress code, strictly enforced even on rainy days. According to the rule, “Hoods prevent quick, easy identification of our students.” If the rule was broken at any time, a student first received a verbal warning, with subsequent incidents leading to detention or referrals.

Recently, Adele had its promotion ceremony. One of the eighth-grade graduates was Josie Brown. Last Spring, on her walk to school, a downpour began. As she ran to campus to get protection from the rain, she was met by a call from a yard monitor. She was warned to remove the hood of her raincoat before stepping on the campus grounds. (Ironically, this adult was wearing a hood.)

Josie Brown and Principal Kelly Kriss.

This was not a single incident. Several of Brown’s friends had recently served detention simply “for trying to stay dry.” Her encounter on that rainy day was the last straw. She decided to take action, utilizing time in her advisory period called “Genius Hour” to formulate a plan.

Brown’s first step in the process was a simple email to Principal Kriss with a request, “How many signatures would I need on a petition to reverse the hoodie rule?” From this, she was invited by Principal Kelly Kriss and Vice Principal Rocca to meet with them and present her argument.

Since the moment students were allowed to return to on-campus learning, Josie Brown has been involved in leadership class. As part of that, she was given the opportunity to attend two years of CASL (California Association of Student Leaders) State Conferences. Using what she’d learned, she formed a committee of class representatives including herself, Avery McDermott (7th grade), and Dominic Lopez (6th grade). 

Together they created a presentation complete with PowerPoint on the pros and cons of the student body being allowed to wear hoods on campus. Hoping to reverse the rule entirely, but understanding the safety issues, the group focused heavily on why they should be allowed to wear hoods in the rain. The reasons included everything from appearance to lack of rain protection provided by the school.

“There are a lot of kids who get up early to get ready for school,” Brown said, “and do their hair and everything. And then (it rains) and everything just gets messed up.” She continued, “Also, there’s no way to stay dry at the F Building. You have to run out in the rain to get there because there is no overhang. So, every kid who had a class in that building would get soaked.” 

Ultimately, it was the decision of the school’s principals not to revoke the rule, but to adapt it to include the use of hoods limited to rainy days and only in outdoor areas.

“I was so impressed by how prepared and professional the students were,” Principal Kriss said. “It was evident that the students did the research and talked to other students. In the end, we agreed they could wear hoods outside in the rain to protect themselves. It was a true win-win-win situation. I am so proud of these students!”

Her father, Kevin Brown, was also very impressed. “It was rewarding for Josie to feel like her opinion was not only important but that it was heard. And I think as a father that’s what you really want for your daughters.”

Even though Josie Brown won’t be at the school when the new rule is applied, taking the action to change it was important to her. “There are other kids who needed the change just as much. Some of them still have two more years that they would be stuck with a rule that is just impractical!”

The motto of the school is, “Building our future together.” This is a great example of the school standing behind those words. The administration saw a valid concern and made changes for the betterment of the kids, making student life better for future students. 

Watch out, Sonoma Valley High School. Josie Brown is headed your way!


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