Hereís an issue that I can come down firmly on at least two sides of; and if there is a third, Iíll take up the cudgels for that too. After all, this is an opinion column, and I have many opinions, sometimes several about the same issue.
It seems a person who qualified for graduation and in fact received a diploma did not participate in the commencement ritual of processing slowly toward the stage, and eventually across it, in full view of everyone in the packed PAHS auditorium, and receiving his diploma in his left hand while having his right firmly shaken by the principal. This person attended the ceremony but sat in the audience, having been forbidden to wear his cowboy boots to the ceremony.
I donít know how much he protested, but his parents wrote a lettitor about it.
A local reader called me, with a full head of steam. This reader has been around, but he claims this community as his hometown, and he is an alumnus of Port High. He insists that this is the best place to grow up, the best place to raise kids.
But, he exclaimed, what an injustice! What a terrible, unfair policy! If that graduating senior wanted to wear his cowboy boots to commencement, who cares? What is this mindless demand for uniformity and compliance with some artificial idea of propriety?
I was starting to think this reader (and actually one of my favorite people, and really very bright, and good looking besides) had called me by mistake, intending to dial the ACLU or maybe the PCLU. But he had called twice, getting my answering device both times, insisting that I get back to him because he had to talk to me about something.
I played devilís advocate. Okay, that may not be the best way of saying that I argued in support of the administration position. Anyhow, I suggested that having a dress code for commencements isnít all that unreasonable. There are rules concerning clothing in the student handbook, last time I lookedódifferent ones for school days and for dances. And there are requirements concerning what to wear for concerts, to achieve a pleasing uniformity, where that is expected. Not strange to tell the guys they should all wear black pants and white shirts, and the girls should wear long black skirts and white blouses. Dark shoes. No sneakers, no high platforms, no Crocs or flip-flops.
And why not go along with it, for the class? And how can cowboy boots be the key to a personís sense of self, here? What do they tell onlookers about that young man? Something so important that it canít be set aside for those two hours or however long the ceremony takes?
We do have our preferred forms of dress. Some guys wear cowboy hats--but probably not in church, and not at a funeral or a weddingóright?
The reader would have none of it. Schools should not stifle individuality in such a fashion, he insisted. They should accommodate that personís choice of shoes, since that kind is perfectly acceptable for many purposes and in many places. It shouldnít matter.
People could adopt either position. Iíd be interested in hearing how others feel about it.
But there was one person I heard about who met graduation requirements, but did not participate in the graduation ceremony. I was sorry to hear that he hadnít. I believe it was because he had not graduated last year because he failed twelfth grade, due to excessive truancy. He went back on a half-day basis this past year and picked up the courses and credits he had lacked.
When the school board voted to approve a list of seniors for graduation, a retired teacher on the board asked the principal whether some of those students might not make it after all, by the time the school term ended. The principal said there were four who might not. Answering another question, he assured the board that those students were aware of the situation.
Maybe the board is not aware, in any detail, of the rules concerning graduation, the dress code, the circumstances under which a graduating senior would be disqualified from participation in the ceremony. I think the board has, by law, the right to approve the student conduct code and rules, including dress codes, and any changes thereto. The board sets policies, and those are policies. Let the administration propose and the board dispose.
I notice that graduation gowns, no longer cotton ones to be rented and then turned back in, are light weight and fairly translucent. But shoes were always clearly visible. Do they matter? Should certain colors and styles be okay, and others forbidden? Where should the line be drawn? Should the members of the graduating class decide? Should each participant in graduation exercises agree to the conditions in writing?
Share your thoughts.
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