School Dispute Suggests Wrong Focus

I’m really tired of this kind of story. It’s growing old beyond fast. But here goes:

A teenager is fighting a battle against his school because he wants to wear something and his school won’t let him.

In this particular case, the teen wants to wear a kilt in honor of his Scottish heritage at his graduation. He decided to ask the principal in advance if he could wear the kilt, and the principal, he says, said no way!

The teen says that he was told that the school’s decision was based on the fact that a kilt doesn’t fit the dress code for graduation. The school didn’t mind him wearing it during the post-graduation dinner, but not during the ceremony itself.

“I find it funny. The school teaches you to respect your heritage, be different, be yourself. And so I am going to be different, being myself. And they don’t like that.”

What I find tiring about this kind of story isn’t that a kid’s out to “be himself.”

Rather, it’s that it seems that if a student is going to fight his school, it must be about something he wants to wear, not something he wants to learn.

When is the last time you heard of a student raising this much stink about adding a needed curriculum? When did you last hear of a student taking a stand to get a better textbook? Or fighting for better after-school programs to help students in need?

I’m not saying, even for a moment, that honoring one’s heritage isn’t important. But at the same time, if arguments over what someone can wear at graduation, or in a senior photo, or who someone can take to their prom, is the biggest thing worth worrying about in our schools, then maybe our schools aren’t as bad as some would have us believe.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.


  • In my opinion,this isn’t a situation that compares to the sexual discrimination issue of who to take to prom, this is a school dress code issue. It seems to be a matter of rebelling rather than being discriminated against. Now, if the kid wore it to every business casual/formal attire event I could see a possible exception…but I doubt that’s the case.
    Welcome to the real world, kid…where you don’t always get your way when you throw a tantrum. Not everything is about our own personal self-expression. Wearing a uniform doesn’t make you less of an individual.

    ..Doing away with graduation ceremonies? How cynical.
    Watching my brother walk and graduate with honors, tearing up and cheering as he turned his tassle, was one of the proudest days of our lives.
    I can’t imagine that saving a handful of people from “having to wear silly harry potter costumes like everyone else” would be worth cutting graduation for all those that it truly does matter to.

  • I’m a believer in the old aphorism that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission. He screwed up by asking the principal for permission ahead of time.

    • Ha. You bring up an interesting point… Why DID he ask the principal for a permission? I wouldn’t have, not if it was that important.

      • He probably did the right thing in making sure it was okay, but in the process, demonstrated that he felt that it might not be. That makes me wonder why he was so shocked by getting a no.

  • I think that the school should have a gender neutral dress code, no jeans, no shorts, no tee shirts, no flip flops, etc. Or something like “business casual”

    I do think that they should not do away with the graduation ceremony. I know that next I want to walk across the stage to show everyone that I made it to graduation. Also graduation is for the family, they spent the $40,000 and they should get a little something for all that money.

  • They told him he could wear it, just not during the ceremony – which I think is entirely appropriate. It is very hard to have a dignified graduation event when kids don’t know how to dress for it, and having a clear dress code is necessary.

  • I started to comment saying, “But how would they *know* he was wearing a kilt under his gown?” and then realized two things: they wouldn’t. They probably require pants so people don’t wear shorts (which is lame, but anyway…) or nothing under the gowns; and maybe he wants to wear the kilt instead of a gown.

    So I’m back on the side of the administration on this one. Sorry, kids, usually I take your side.

    I wonder what they’d do if someone wanted to wear a boubou under the graduation gown? Covered legs, but…a ‘skirt’ on a man?

    • If a man wants to wear a skirt, let him wear a skirt – unless you deny the women the right to wear one as well.

      To me, a boubou, or a kilt, or a tuxedo wouldn’t look any more out of place in a ceremony than those Harry Potter costumes they wear already.

      • But what if the point is to eliminate the “Harry Potter” costumes by forcing everyone to have one common look? Does that make a difference? Are you really discriminating against anyone individually when you require everyone to do the same thing?

  • What if we just dispense with the graduation ceremonies entirely? Have the teachers distribute the graduation papers to the students in the classrooms, and then the kids can go home and celebrate there with their families – and do it in the nude for all I care. Seems like it would save a lot of money, time, and hassle.

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