An update on certain Glendale Unified School District board policies inched closer to formally allowing LGBTQ rights during graduation ceremonies, while also allowing for more religious and cultural adornments.
Kelly King, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services, presented a report to the board during its first meeting of the new school year Tuesday.
The report outlined several new and revised policies, from transportation fees to sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention instruction, along with several other items.
The presentation’s purpose was to update board members, who are then expected to vote whether to adopt the policies during a future meeting.
A few notable additions presented were a board policy that would regulate graduation ceremonies and activities.
District staff members added language giving students a choice on cap and gown selection, based on their gender preference.
Three of the district’s five high schools implement colored caps and gowns based on gender. At Hoover High’s latest graduation on June 11, students wore purple or white, according to their personal preference.
The new language states, “If cap and gowns are differentiated based on gender, students shall be allowed to wear the color of cap and gown that aligns to their gender identity or gender expression.”
The change is being crafted after similar language used by the California School Boards Assn. was updated this past March.
“GUSD is constantly looking at policies and regulations to ensure they are compliant with current [education codes] and laws,” said Glendale Unified communications director Kristine Nam.
She added that, “GUSD high schools that have different colored robes for graduation have given students the choice of color for a few years now,” though no written policy existed.
Crescenta Valley High teacher Alicia Harris, co-adviser of her school’s Gay Straight Alliance organization, acknowledged the district allowed for choice previously.
“To give GUSD a little bit of credit, this has already been happening at schools for the last couple of years, but it’s nice that it’s now codified,” she said.
Harris added the Jostens cap and gown forms didn’t list gender, just color and size.
“A graduation is a celebration of a young person’s achievement, so it really should be a celebration of the young person as they chose to define themselves,” Harris said.
Another proposed change would allow students, “to wear tribal regalia or recognized objects of religious or cultural significance as an adornment to the customary ceremonial attire,” as long as those items don’t pose a distraction.
School sites had the final say on all graduation attire, though schools retain some autonomy.
“Schools had discretion, and will continue to have discretion, regarding the decoration of caps,” Nam said. “The proposed policy update does not change that.”
Hoover and Clark Magnet highs have allowed their students to decorate caps, perhaps highlighted this year when Hoover High senior Henry Pruett triggered a confetti cannon atop his cap upon receiving his diploma this June.
On the flip side, Glendale and Crescenta Valley highs do not allow cap adornments.
Linda Junge, principal at Crescenta Valley High, said her school allows cap decorations at multiple events, such as at senior awards night and at a Reflections ceremony, a sort of baccalaureate service, hosted by the school’s PTA.
“For those two, you can put whatever you want on your cap,” Junge said.
She added, “We’ve sort of taken the approach that at [graduation]… we want to focus on everything that has been accomplished academically over the period of these last years.”
Glendale High Principal Ben Wolf said his school’s cap policy was based on tradition.
“The high school graduation ceremony and regalia associated with it have roots and tradition going back centuries,” Wolf said.
“During the ceremony, our graduates are members of their graduating class [and] something bigger than themselves. It may be the only time we ever pick uniformity over individuality in order to maintain the pageantry and tradition of the ceremony,” he added.
Wolf said he is committed to student expression and cited Glendale High recently adding a recessional to its ceremony that allows the senior class to select one or two songs that represent the graduating group.