A Marine’s high school banned him from walking the graduation stage, and when people heard the school’s excuse, many were furious. Is their outrage justified or was his school just following the rules? You decide.
Jacob Dalton Stanley had plenty to be proud of after what he had accomplished at such a young age. After completing his high school requirements many months early, the Indiana student promptly enlisted in the Marines. Right before his high school graduation ceremony, the young man wrapped up boot camp and hopped on a plane, arriving home in time to participate in his high school graduation. But, things didn’t go as planned.
Showing up in his full dress blue Marine Corps uniform, Stanley was denied the opportunity to walk the graduation stage with his classmates because he wasn’t wearing the required standard cap and gown. However, Stanley had been warned. When he participated in his Crown Point High School senior class graduation rehearsal earlier that same day, Chip Pettit, the school’s principal, informed Stanley that he couldn’t wear his uniform to the ceremony.
Jacob Dalton Stanley obviously chose to ignore the directive as he showed up for graduation in his Marine Corps uniform anyway. To his shock, the principal held true to his warning and the graduate was turned away. Although Pettit and the school have received immense backlash over the decision, the principal says it’s a long-standing school policy that was made clear to Stanley.
Although he understands that Stanley, his family, and many others are upset, he said the school typically doesn’t have a problem enforcing the graduation dress code. “This practice has served us well as it has allowed the class to show unity by dressing the same, but also allowing for individual accomplishments to be recognized by wearing stoles and chords,” Pettit explained.
“This tradition is not intended to be disrespectful to students, parents, or our community, but as a source of pride for our students,” he furthered. “It is also not intended to be disrespectful to our students choosing to serve in the military, our active duty servicemen and women and our veterans,” Pettit continued. “We are forever grateful for the sacrifices that they make on a daily basis for our freedom.”
Although the rules seem pretty cut and dry, some students, as well as many others hearing the news, have taken umbrage with the school’s decision, calling it “ridiculous,” according to Daily Mail. Making matters worse, Stanley was not only prohibited from participating in the ceremony, his name wasn’t called out in recognition of his achievement.
“He’s in the military putting his life on the line for us. It’s unacceptable that he was not allowed to walk across the stage. If he wants to walk across the stage in his uniform that he worked so hard for and earned, he should have the right to do that,” Leann Tustison, a fellow Crown Point graduate, said. “That’s his achievement. They honored other people’s achievements whether they were in triathlon or other activities.”
Even though that’s a far point, it should also be noted again that Stanley was made aware of the rules beforehand. And, if you don’t like the rules, it’s much more conducive to try to get them changed rather than just break them. As a member of the military, Stanley should understand the importance of rules and lead by example by respecting them. After all, Marines who exhibited similar behavior while serving their country would face far more severe consequences. That said, why would the school have such a rule anyway?
Proving that point, just a few miles away at the nearby Hobart High School, Ana Kritikos, a graduate who had also enlisted in the Marine Corps, was permitted to wear her military uniform during commencement ceremonies. Like Stanley, Marine Private First Class Kritikos graduated early so she could enlist.
When she returned for graduation, she said she received the full support of high school administrators when she expressed her desire to wear her uniform. “They have been absolutely amazing. It is OK with the Marines for us to wear our uniforms at high school graduation,” Kritikos said. “I know the School Board, the principal, and superintendent talked about it and were in agreement that I could wear my Marine uniform.”
Couldn’t Principal Pettit and Crown Point have chosen to do the same? Unlike Principal Pettit and Crown Point, Hobart Superintendent Peggy Buffington said that her school goes out of its way to recognize graduates who join the military.
“We recognize audience members and future military in our graduates by having them stand. It is always a very special and patriotic moment where the audience roars with applause,” Buffington said. “This year was especially nice because Ana Kritikos graduated midterm and landed just in time for the graduation ceremony.”
“We did recognize her and the achievements she has made in the Marines, already,” Buffington continued. “She is a Private 1st Class Military Occupation Specialist. She is currently serving in Virginia in their specialist class involved with intelligence and started her training in January. We are extremely proud of her accomplishments.”
According to a US Marine Corps spokesman, the military doesn’t get involved with the dress code for graduations. “The Marine Corps does not dictate what specific high schoolers can or cannot graduate in,” Marine Corps Major Clark Carpenter explained. “That decision is up to school leadership.”
Although nothing can undo what’s already been done, others who wish to serve before graduation can learn from Jacob Dalton Stanley’s ordeal. Ensure you know the school rules, and if you don’t like them, make a push to change them before you are denied the right to participate in such a monumental event while also having your service achievement recognized.
As for any schools with such rules, consider changing them. Is there any good reason to deny a student the right to wear their military uniform for graduation? One would think it would be encouraged since it sets a good example for the service member’s peers.