Students at Prior Lake High School sometimes hide iPods under hooded sweat shirts to listen to music during class.

They’ll bicker and throw each other’s hats off the school’s interior balconies, or they’ll pull hats low over their eyes to prevent security cameras from identifying them, according to Principal Dave Lund.

That’s why, he said, students will find a new “no head-wear” policy in place when they return to school in September. The Prior Lake-Savage school board approved the policy on Monday as part of the 2008-09 school year’s student handbook.

High schools all over the state, including in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Eden Prairie, Lakeville and Apple Valley already ban hats during the school day. Schools say they want to be sure students can be identified on security cameras and want teachers to be able to watch their eyes during tests.

“The impetus was to create a safer, more productive learning environment,” Lund said.

Consequences for abusing the policy are similar to the school’s escalating punishments for having a cell phone visible during school hours.

After the first offense, the cell phone is taken away until the end of the day. After the second offense, it’s confiscated until a parent retrieves it. After the third offense, the school confiscates it until the end of the school year.

“The school is pretty good at catching that kind of stuff,” said student council member Brad Farrell, who will be a senior in the fall. Even though the school already has a dress code, he said, most students don’t care that much because “most people don’t really want to wear provocative clothing.”

“Not wanting to allow hats is a little surprising to me,” he said. “It will probably upset kids that do wear hats, ’cause there are guys that like not having to worry about what their hair looks likes. But I don’t think it will affect everyone else that much.”

Lund said he has taken several unofficial surveys of the lunch room and classrooms to see how many students wear hats on an average day. He estimates that 15 to 18 percent of students will be affected.

The school’s dress code also prohibits clothes that advertise alcohol, tobacco, violence or illegal conduct, sexually offensive clothing, sunglasses, and spikes larger than one inch, among other things.

“When I heard about it, I was a little in shock because our school was one of the last to do this,” said Jackson Miller, president of the student council. “But it seems like they did a lot of research on it, and I respect their decision.”

Miller said some students wear hats to speak to their identity, such as Twins or Red Sox hats to signify where they’re from, or different colors, such as white, to help show which clique they’re in.

He’s also seen students tape test or quiz answers into the brim of a hat. That’s something Lund worries about, in addition to concerns that hats can let students shield their eyes during a test.

“It’s not one of these policies where we’re trying to kick kids out and suspend them,” Lund said, “We’re just trying to make a better educational environment.”

Emily Johns • 952-882-9056