WINDHAM — A student’s recent request to wear a military sash to his graduation has led school officials to consider an official stance on proper commencement attire.
This month, administrators said that a member of Windham High School’s Class of 2014 had approached them immediately before the June 13 ceremony.
While that student, who had already completed basic training, wasn’t permitted to wear a sash over his cap and gown, all the graduates pursuing military careers were formally recognized during the ceremony.
During the July 1 School Board meeting, board member Dennis Senibaldi initiated a discussion on the matter with fellow school officials.
Senibaldi said that only a “very small group of students” manage to complete basic training before receiving their high school diploma.
“I, for one, would like to see students have the option of wearing that stole,” he said. “This is an impressive accomplishment for someone to achieve while they’re still in high school.”
Superintendent Winfried Feneberg agreed the issue was worth pondering.
“This is an issue many other districts have grappled with,” he said.
The superintendent suggested the board consider working with administrators to research the matter and draft a policy or procedure for the board to consider.
Board member Mike Joanis noted that in the recent incident, administrators were taken unawares and simply reacted on the spot.
While Feneberg wondered if such a policy should be added to the student handbook, Joanis said he wasn’t sure an official policy was necessary. He agreed a procedure warranted discussion.
“I think there are some issues the board needs to deliberate before making a final decision,” Feneberg said. “And if we were to make it a policy, it should be specific.”
Board member Ken Eyring disagreed with administrators’ decision on the sash.
“Seeing all the students in their caps, many of them decorated them to reflect their different personalities,” he said. “I thought that was great, and I also think that recognizing these students for going into the military is an honor for our community. I don’t think this should be questioned.”
Board Chairman Jerome Rekart agreed.
“If we have a student in a similar position next year, there should be no question,” Rekart said, noting his thoughts that a military sash isn’t much different than the tassels worn by National Honor Society members.
Resident Bob Coole echoed that sentiment, noting that “while everyone wears the same uniform, a stole showing someone’s individual accolades is definitely appropriate.”
Senibaldi said he would serve as the board liaison to district administration and would work to draft an official stance on the matter over the coming months.