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Dallas Students Not Happy About Gender-neutral Graduation Gowns

March 29, 2019

A plan for gender-neutral graduation caps and gowns is not going over well at Dallas High School.

Traditionally, Dallas girls have worn Columbia blue caps and gowns at graduation, while boys donned dark blue.

In January, the school board approved a contract to buy midnight blue caps and gowns for all students. No one raised any objections then.

“We had no idea,” senior Sydney Strickland said Thursday.

After learning about the planned change two weeks ago, Strickland started collecting signatures on a petition to keep the traditional gown colors. More than half of the senior class — 215 students — signed the petition, and nine of every 10 seniors opposed the change in a survey conducted last week, Strickland said.

“I think wearing the traditional colors shows pride and that I love my school. And I really don’t want it to change,” she said.

In recent years, some high schools across the nation have changed to gender-neutral gowns to be more inclusive and sensitive to nonconforming gender students who may be offended by wearing a color-coordinated identifier at graduation. That does not appear to be the case at Dallas.

“The reason it came up was the prior contract expired,” Superintendent Thomas Duffy said. “Prior to the renewal, there were no complaints or concerns that I am aware of.”

Last year in Luzerne and Wyoming counties, one of 15 public high schools — Tunkhannock Area — had one gown color for all students. At Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre, all students wore red caps and gowns.

 

Dallas school officials have been talking to seniors about keeping the traditional gown colors for boys and girls, Duffy said.

“We are still in the middle of that discussion,” Duffy said.

Whether the district can still buy graduation gowns in different colors for boys and girls this year “depends on what the vendor requires us to do,” Duffy explained.

“I am certain we’re going to have a successful graduation ceremony. We will accommodate all students regardless of how this conversation finishes,” Duffy added.

On Jan. 14, the school board voted for a resolution approving a contract that ends in 2023 to buy caps, gowns and tassels from Herff Jones Inc. Duffy said he believed the cost was around $33 per student.

Prior to the vote on Jan. 14, high school Principal Jason Rushmer informed the board about the plan for a gown redesign and for all students to wear the same the same color.

“Most students to my understanding feel there should be two colors,” senior Andrew Hirko said Thursday. “We were all told we had an option to vote ... and it was ultimately going to be up to the school board to make the decision.”

The school board’s next public meeting is April 8.

“I’m kind of indifferent toward the whole thing,” senior Christian Motley said. “It doesn’t matter to me whether or not we have two color gowns or one color gowns. I know a lot of people who are upset about how it’s going against tradition and traditional values that we’ve had in place here. And of course there’s the other side, which is more of the progressive side of view of things. I understand where both sides are coming from.”

Junior Ethan Dyrli said seniors are frustrated because “it was put to them like it was a vote but it seems like they didn’t have a choice anyway.”

Junior Makenna Kaminski said she opposes the change because “it’s highly against tradition.” She said she has been expecting “to walk across that stage as a senior in a Columbia blue gown” at her graduation ceremony.

Kaminski also doesn’t understand why midnight blue is preferred over Columbia blue.

“Of the two choices, why not choose Columbia because that’s our main color,” she said.

Contact the writer:

mbuffer@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2073, @cvmikebuffer

 

WHAT’S NEXT

Dallas School Board public meeting:

When: 7 p.m. April 8

Where: Dallas School District Administration Building, Hildebrandt Road, Dallas Twp.