CAM MEDRANO / EYE OF THE TIGER
Starting this year, students in club and elective programs will be able to wear pre-approved memorabilia, such as pins, to represent their time in their school organization at graduation. Previously, students could only wear adornments for academic programs.
New guidelines for graduation attire passed at last week’s board meeting. The guidelines also conformed to new state laws to permit students to wear items representing religious or cultural heritage.
According to superintendent Denise Herrmann, when the district started to explore new policies to match this legislation, she sought student input from her advisory committee. Students brought adornments for school-sanctioned organizations to the table, as well as decorating graduation caps, the latter of which the district will look into for upcoming years.
The new guidelines open opportunities for clubs like Latino Student Union, which last year sought permission for their members to wear sashes at graduation. LSU member Merary Medina-Gutierez said the request was declined because the club was not an academic organization.
“We wanted to give something to our seniors as a goodbye, because most of them were AVID students as well, going on to college,” Medina-Gutierez said. “We wanted them to have a little bit of us going on with them, and it was kind of sad they weren’t able to wear it at graduation.”
According to principal Nicholas Richter, the school sites are now working to create an approval process for clubs and elective programs. This change, on top of the new graduation venue, is part of the reason the district put off the change to decorate caps for a later date.
While students actively pursued the right to decorate caps for this year’s graduations, that possible amendment to graduation policy will have to wait.
“Decorating caps was very, very strongly advocated by students and I also supported it,” Herrmann said. “It’s just we’re going to have so many other changes going on this year, that assistant principals and principals who would be the ones that would have to implement it feel that they wouldn’t be able to do as good of a job. They want to phase it in.”
Herrmann said there will be limitations on the decoration of the caps. The decorations must be school appropriate and avoid referencing the college the student plans to attend. This is based off of her experience at other schools, where caps created a competitive environment.
“We needed to make some adjustments because students were claiming that having colleges and this and that was a little bit of academic shaming going on – bragging that they got into Harvard or Stanford,” Herrmann said. “And that it really didn’t make it feel like an equitable environment… We got much more clear on what are we really trying to celebrate here and what’s appropriate at a high school graduation”
Richter said RHS needs another year to work through the logistics of ensuring decorated caps follow the guidelines.
“It’s a not yet, not a no. Just first, how would we do it? How could we physically check 500 students on the day of and how would that work?” Richter said. “I think we just need a little bit more time to think about how that would work and try to figure out a way that it would be feasible, fair, equitable. We want to make sure we have done it the right way.”