A riled-up crowd persuaded Cloverleaf school officials to allow a senior to wear her Army uniform at Sunday’s graduation ceremony.
Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said senior Melissa Stevens approached school administrators about an hour earlier and said she would not participate unless she was permitted to wear her Army dress uniform instead of the traditional cap and gown.
Kubilus said no.
“It has been our procedure over many years that everybody would be attired in the cap and gown,” he said, “and the reasons for that is regardless of your family income, the neighborhood in which you live or the disadvantages that you may have encountered in life, graduation ceremony is the one time where everybody is equal, and the only thing that distinguishes peers is academic cords.”
But Kubilus reversed his decision after the crowed — led by Stevens’ father — took up a chant of “Let her walk.”
“There were 2,000 people who were listening to this and more and more people started joining in,” Kubilus said. “I felt it would be in the best interest of our district if she were permitted to walk, otherwise all the attention would be pulled from our graduating class as a whole and would focus solely on the controversy, so she was permitted to walk in her military attire.”
Stevens, who finished her schooling early, enlisted in the Army and has completed basic training.
Kubilus said the school board would review the district policy to allow a possible exception for students joining the military to wear their uniforms during graduation.
Kubilus said principals have received similar requests before, but usually well before the ceremony.
Jackie Stull, a Harrisville Township resident who attended the ceremony at Cloverleaf Recreation Center in Westfield Township, said she thought the school district could have handled the situation better.
“That’s something that the school should be proud of,” she said. “They need to recognize her. They recognized all the honor students.”
Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.