Great Neck wrangles with Moncler beanies and perception

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North Middle School administrators requested that parents try to prevent their children from wearing Moncler winter pom pom hats, following many ending up lost and creating distractions. (Photo courtesy of Moncler)
North Middle School administrators requested that parents try to prevent their children from wearing Moncler winter pom pom hats, following many ending up lost and creating distractions. (Photo courtesy of Moncler)

Lost Moncler beanies, with price tags as high as $350, have apparently caused a stir in Great Neck North Middle School, according to a letter sent by administrators to parents and acquired by the New York Post.

The letter says that while administrators “understand that fashion is very important to our middle schoolers,” many students have lost or misplaced their winter pom pom hats – creating some distraction in school.

“Please try and redirect your middle schooler from wearing these hats to school,” the letter says. “It has consumed a great deal of our time trying to locate these missing hats, and it has been disruptive to the students’ focus and time as well.”

The story appeared in the Daily Mail and New York Post, with headlines like “School asks parents of rich kids not to let them wear $350 Moncler Beanies” and “School urges rich kids to stop wearing – and losing – $350 beanies.”

The child-size version of the beanie can sell for around $170.

Stories about the school’s hat issue have multiplied since, appearing in places like Insider, Patch, Yahoo Lifestyle, Fox News, the Daily Beast and The Independent, according to a Google News search for “Monclear beanie.”

There is even a headline on another site suggesting that Moncler beanies are “terrorizing this wealthy Long Island middle school.”

Great Neck North Middle School Principal Gerald Cozine and Superintendent Teresa Prendergast could not be reached for comment on Tuesday morning, but Ron Edelson, a spokesman for the district, said the portrayal of the community has been “unfortunate.”

“I would say that at times, there is a segment of the media (not all by any means) that has shown a propensity to distort – in a negative way – the image of affluent communities like Great Neck and other North Shore communities, and look for almost any reason or story, no matter how inconsequential, to try to embarrass or malign the residents of those communities,” Edelson said via email. “It is unfortunate and undeserved.”

The letter sparked a conversation in Great Neck-based Facebook groups on whether school officials can dictate what children wear, why parents allowed their children to wear such expensive hats to school and why administrators spent a “great deal of time” searching for the hats to begin with.

“Unless this hat contains some VERY special material that makes winter feel like summer, I could not see spending $350 on a hat for myself or anyone in my family. To me, the issue is about values,” one parent posted. “What message are we sending our kids, buying them $350 hats when there are so many people in our community and beyond, who have to think twice before spending $10 on a hat.”

Another parent said that the issue is “not about not having nice things,” as “everyone has a right to spend their money how they wish,” but that the school has become involved.

“It’s not their responsibility to be searching for lost moncler hats. They have more important things to do. They were obviously getting enough parent calls that they felt the need to address the subject on a mass scale,” she said. “Shame on the parents for allowing their kids to wear such expensive hats to school and even worse, wasting the administration’s time in having them help find them.”

But it also prompted some parents to take the gloves off over how media outlets portray Great Neck – and always seem to leave out the good stuff.

“Whomever leaked this to the Post, thanks for sending out the exact stereotypical ‘affluenza infects Great Neck’ crap the local press love to write about our town,” one woman wrote on Facebook. “Next time you want to send a story – how about forwarding how we support our neighbors who become homeless through fires or strive to serve our children through opening a universal pre-k program at our Title I school?”

“Or how a diverse and vibrant community had demonstrated time and again how unified they are against intolerance?” she continued. “Just a suggestion.”

A fire in Great Neck Plaza recently left five families unable to return to their apartments, prompting community members to reach out to offer shelter.

John F. Kennedy School, a Title I school, is starting a pre-K program. Officials have cited long-term benefits of pre-K for economically disadvantaged students.

In the fall, Great Neck also elected Mimi Hu to the Great Neck Library board 1,389 to 761, in a move seen by many as a rebuke to two women shouting what appeared to be transphobic remarks at Hu at a street fair.

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