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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, 2007
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Sykes unable to get hat ban overturned

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

Decatur school board member Tommy Sykes failed in his bid Tuesday to overturn a hat ban at Austin and Decatur high school basketball games.

Sykes tried to make a motion, but Superintendent Sam Houston informed the District 1 representative that the ban made before the November start of basketball season was not a board action.

Houston said the unanimous school board vote Nov. 14 was an "endorsement of the plan presented as an informational item." Sykes voted for the endorsement, but has since changed his position.

The superintendent and a committee of administrators and basketball coaches approved the ban as part of a package that included limiting attendance to gym capacity, banning loitering in the gyms' halls, increasing security and increasing ticket prices.

At the time, Houston said the ban of baseball caps, ski caps, bandanas and other headgear began as a discussion of banning gang-related headwear. He said the decision to ban all headgear became an issue of fairness. The committee members felt they couldn't let others wear hats and focus only on gang members' headwear.

The move was particularly controversial with black senior citizens in Sykes' district in Northwest Decatur. A group met with Houston in December at the Turner-Surles Community Center and sent a representative to a February school board meeting.

Since he couldn't overturn the ban, Sykes asked Houston to consider changing the rule "until there's a viable reason for the rule." He said the committee also needs to discuss whether the ban would extend to other indoor sports like volleyball and look at football game safety issues.

Houston said the committee would evaluate the hat ban and other procedures it implemented before the basketball season begins next year. He said, however, that he and the school principals are pleased with the ban.

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