MASSENA — Massena Central School officials will be reviewing the policy that governs the dress code for graduation ceremonies after a student draped himself with a Puerto Rican flag during ceremonies held in June.
Board of education Vice President Paul Haggett, who chairs the district’s Policy Committee, said board members had a discussion during their September meeting about the incident. Principal Sarah Boyce, who approves the graduation dress code, including Native American dress worn by Mohawk students, was unaware that the student was planning to use the flag.
“We talked about ways that situation could be avoided in the future,” he said.
The district policy regarding the student dress code says, “All students participating in the commencement ceremony shall be dressed in the standard cap and gown; however, Native American students may have a choice of wearing either the standard cap and gown or their ‘traditional native Ceremonial Dress’ upon approval by the building principal.”
Mr. Haggett said the Policy Committee also talked about the use of “honor cords” worn at graduation to recognize activities such as Drama Club or Link Crew participation. Board member Kevin Perretta suggested that cords should mark academic achievement, not merely participation in a laudable activity.
The district’s policy allows students to wear outer stoles or cords “representing honors which have been bestowed upon them and/or stoles which may represent their heritage.”
“This year we did have some cords being worn by some students in recognition of their participation in some activities like Link Crew and Drama Club,” Mr. Haggett said.
He said Mr. Perretta questioned whether recognizing those students with a cord at graduation “was the right way to handle that recognition.” He said Superintendent Patrick Brady would discuss the situations with administrators and club advisers “and may come back later with a modification to the dress code policy or perhaps a new policy that governs the dress code at graduation specifically.”
During their September meeting, members of the Policy Committee also recommended approval of a change to Policy 5660, Meal Charging and Prohibition Against Meal Shaming. Under the change, the district cannot charge for a reduced-price meal for children who qualify. Instead, the state will pick up the 25 cent charge and the student will be charged zero.