"This country was founded on rebellion. This country was founded on protest," Cape Cod Regional Technical High School principal William Terranova tells PEOPLE

By Char Adams
Updated August 27, 2015 04:25 PM
Credit: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg/Getty

A group of high school students in Massachusetts caused a stir this week for opposing a school policy forbidding yoga pants, but the principal of Cape Cod Regional Technical High School says he isn’t upset with the students – he’s impressed by them.

“They used their voices. They used their minds,” principal William Terranova tells PEOPLE. “They thought about it critically and they united the student body. I’m super proud of them.”

The original policy, approved by parents at a council meeting in June, forbids “leggings, tights, yoga pants and any other extremely form-fitting apparel.” But as fall drew near – and with it, the policy’s implementation – students refused to give up their beloved garments without a fight.

More than 200 girls joined a Facebook event called “First Day = Yoga Pants,” with each one vowing to wear the garment on the first day of school in opposition to the rule, Fox Boston reports.

The students’ effort caught widespread attention, with multiple media sites reporting the story. But rather than becoming frustrated with the students, Terranova says he was “impressed.”

“We thought that was awesome,” he says of his reaction and that of other school officials. “This country was founded on rebellion. This country was founded on protest, and we respect the kids who want to speak their minds and show their identity and who they are.”

The policy has been revised to allow the students to wear yoga pants and leggings underneath dresses, skirts or shorts. The revised policy, according to Terranova, is to teach students the importance of dressing professionally in the workplace.

“We’re preparing students, young adults, for the work force,” he says. “Just demonstrating the awareness of workplace culture so that they can be successful post-high school.”

That explanation didn’t hold water for students like Cape Tech’s senior class president Seana Aiolupotea, who told the Cape Cod Times that the policy was a thinly veiled reaction to boys at the school “becoming distracted” by the form-fitting pants.

“We’re not wearing them to get attention from people; we’re wearing them to be comfortable,” she told the Times.

But Terranova says it’s not a gender issue. He holds that school officials try to implement “unisex” policies but “styles are quite different between males and females.”

He noted that some policies largely affect males, like the banning of hats and baggy jeans that expose underwear.

Ultimately, Terranova says, he met with the group of students and discussed some compromises for “easing into the policy.”

“I want the kids to feel that their voice matters,” he says. “We don’t come with a heavy hand here at Cape Cod Tech.”