A Reflection on Hoods Up

Following Shaker Heights High School’s banned ‘hoods up’ day, Investigations Editor Ose Arheghan shares experience


The poster advertising “Black History Month Spirit Week” that was placed on walls throughout the school and posted on social media.

From the 8:04 bell starting classes to the well-deserved standing ovation following Friday night’s Sankofa performance, my hood remained up.

There were administrators, Interim Principal James Reed III included, who took a “hoods down” approach to the day, and I applaud them for it. Wearing a hoodie, even with the hood down — as opposed to a suit — showed they were sympathetic to the anniversary of  Trayvon Martin’s death. They were not, however, sympathetic to the students’ cause.

Wearing a hoodie with the hood down was a statement for administrators because the hoodie itself was different than their daily attire. I, however, don’t wear a suit every day. If I came to school with my hood down, there would have been no difference between Feb. 26, 2016 and every other day.

I had students ask me, “What should I do if they tell me to take my hood down?”

I didn’t have a solid answer for that. My response was, “I can’t make that decision for anyone, I can’t tell anyone how to think. The only person whose hood I should dictate is my own.” With the threat of repercussion, many students did comply with faculty directives instructing them to remove hoods, and I respect that.

I have to acknowledge that while I received no repercussions for my actions, there were students who did.

Sophomore Emma Duhamel, for example, was issued an in-school suspension before the 8:04 bell to start classes even rang.

“I learned that civil disobedience is really hard, and it’s not something I find fun, at all,” she said. “But when I feel as if there’s an issue where speaking up isn’t working, I will do what I have to do to try my hardest to make the world somewhat better.”

I can’t speak for everyone who participated in hoods up, but for me, it was stressful. Every time I went to one of my classes, I had to think, “How are people going to react? Is my teacher going to kick me out?” Despite that feeling of unease, I don’t regret the decision I made to keep my hood up. We students were put in a position in which the rules contradicted what we believed was right.

For me, cowering in compliance would have defied everything my parents and teachers have taught me about standing up for what I believe in.”

This whole situation leaves me wondering why some students were disciplined and others not. I could speculate about why I escaped punishment — I got lucky, I could’ve been made a martyr, there were too many kids to catch them all — but at the end of the day, I don’t know. I walked through the halls past security guards, all my teachers looked me in my eye, and the principal even walked into my classroom to observe; all the while my hood was up. There were plenty of opportunities to discipline me.

The question Hoods Up left me with is this: How am I supposed to go back to school on Monday and pretend nothing happened? This situation left me feeling disheartened, frustrated and angry, and there hasn’t been any type of dialogue to alleviate any of these feelings.

After Reed’s ninth-period announcement Feb. 15, there were no subsequent announcements, no student input on a hoods down compromise, and the only acknowledgment of Martin’s death came from Sankofa student leadership during their performance.

The Shaker community showered me with encouragement, and on two separate occasions, I was moved to tears. There is no denying that Shaker is home to supportive and dedicated parents, teachers and students. I saw more students wearing their school IDs that I can ever remember seeing at the high school Friday, and my English class took time to discuss the repercussions of civil disobedience and what makes it still worth the risk. What frustrates me is that I had to receive that support in spite of the administrative policy.

This is far from over. We cannot pretend that one big demonstration is going to automatically fix all of our problems. While students did band together, we had to do it against school policy. What happens the next time our wishes don’t line up with administration? Will we ever get to have input on compromise?

I have two more years at this school, and during that time I want to be confident that when issues such as this arise, there are people who will acknowledge our concerns and do what is best to help us. I want to be confident that students have some part of the conversations that determine what goes on in our lives.

If we felt strongly enough to speak out against administration and defy this policy, we need to stick it out through the long haul and commit to getting better communication from those who run our school.

The lesson I learned from Hoods Up is that standing up for what you believe in is never going to be easy, but you need to do it. As students we all have valid opinions and the right to have our voices heard. When we don’t stand up, we are giving away that right.

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