Opinion: Strict graduation attire should retire

Graduating seniors should be allowed to express themselves during their final walk across the stage as a Warrior


Mia Wiginton

For years, MCHS graduates were asked not to decorate their caps for graduation. This year, the rule has changed, allowing students to express themselves during the formal ceremony.

Paulina Borowski, Staff Writer

It’s the final day as a senior, a high schooler. The entire front entrance is decorated with orange and black streamers, balloons and graduation decorations. Through the main gym doors and the view from up above, rows and rows of students in black graduation gowns and caps. All of them look the same, some with special tassels, pins or special stoles, but other than those accessories, it is hard to show their personal pride when dressed in a monochrome cap and gown. 

There’s no way for seniors to really show people who they are for their last stride as a high schooler across that graduation stage. The graduation dress code has been the same for decades, so why are students still restricted to specifically wearing only their cap and gown?

The official MCHS student handbook states that the graduation ceremony in late May is a formal event. The student dress code is strictly enforced for the ceremony, so, “No personal articles, decorations or additions to the cap and gown are allowed.” This includes cultural flags, tribal regalia, or other items of religious or cultural significance.

However, administration has allowed seniors to decorate their caps this year as long as accessories and decoration are school appropriate/approved. This is a welcomed decision, but students should not be restricted to express themselves on the small surface area of their caps. They should be allowed to wear articles that really show their pride as not only a graduate but now as a matured person.

Seniors still got the thumbs up to decorate their caps, unlike some of the classes before them, and they are eager to even be able to represent themselves and decorate their caps with fun quotes with significance or just create their caps to make it special or custom.

Many seniors are decorating their caps, but since it’s one of the first few years that cap decorating is allowed, many students aren’t entirely sure how they want to decorate it. “Yes, I’m planning on decorating my cap for graduation. I don’t know how to decorate it yet, but I think it will be so fun!” says senior Chris Schoder. Having the freedom to express yourself for the rough years of high school in the midst of a pandemic is very rewarding to show of what seniors have accomplished. “It’s a great opportunity for seniors to express themselves or show off their college/future plans depending on what they put on their cap,” adds senior Alison Anthony. For an event that marks the end of a chapter, graduation is so sentimental; expression should not just be for the caps, but also for the gowns walking across that graduation stage.

The rule here at MCHS like mentioned before — no personal articles, decorations or additions to the cap and gown — is established in most high schools, and if students were to wear any accessories like flags or other articles with other significance, students can be denied a diploma for the violation of graduation dress code. A graduate from North Carolina, Ever Lopez, wore a Mexican flag around his shoulders, and the school district said it was a violation of the dress code. “It’s not just Ever’s diploma. It’s all part of our diploma. It’s our community’s diploma,” says Ever’s mother. Especially for those who are first generation graduates, being the first to walk across that stage is a huge achievement. Schools need to realize that those kinds of students want to honor their family and community not only for themselves but to represent their family’s heritage and achievements.

Many Indigenous students believe that graduation from high school cannot be properly or fully celebrated, from a spiritual and cultural perspective, without certain ceremonial regalia from parents and trial elders. Some schools prohibit Indigenous students from wearing these items at graduation as it would violate the school’s dress code and would disrupt the graduation ceremony. Christian Titman, a Native American graduate at Clovis High School in California and member of the Pit River Tribe, was denied his request to wear an eagle feather at his high school graduation ceremony. “You don’t turn your back on that. When you walk across that stage, you’re not only proudly representing yourself, but your family, extended family and your tribe,” says the president of NEA American Indian/Alaska Native Caucus that promotes equal opportunity and access for indigenous peoples of North America. These unique accessories and articles of clothing are not just for show but also have much significance as Indigenous students should be able to celebrate their graduation while remaining true to their cultural and religious heritage. 

Seniors would love to express themselves for their last event as a high school student, but many believe it isn’t just about them on the day of graduation. It is about the community, but as well as the school’s reputation. “It’s about philosophy and the philosophy behind it. The attire that we give has to be school and district approved because it’s not all about the seniors; it’s all about the school and the community,” says the Dean of Students, Gregory Eiserman. So it is the matter of the fact that these seniors are representing their school for one final time for their walk across that graduation stage.

If students were to really show off their proud heritage and accomplishments for the final chapter of high school, it would look much different. 

It’s the final day as a senior, a high schooler. The entire front entrance is decorated with orange and black streamers, balloons and graduation decorations. Through the main gym doors and the view from up above, rows and rows of students in black graduation gowns with tribal beadwork, and cultural and colorful flags speckled across the rows and rows of graduates. The view from the top, many brightly decorated caps, some with funny or meaningful quotes and some that really show the creativity, personality, or dreams of each graduate. 

This is how graduation should really look, with colors and significance to the graduates who are going onto the next chapter in their lives. Seniors aren’t going to be high schoolers for much longer. So, if they have to go, they should do it with style.