Graduates wear decorated caps during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Monday, May 15, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates wear decorated caps during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Monday, May 15, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Proposed KPBSD policy would limit adornment of student graduation regalia

With some exceptions, students would be expected to wear the attire customarily worn for the graduation ceremony at their school

A new policy being considered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District school board would limit the type of regalia graduating students may wear during commencement ceremonies.

The policy, brought forth by KPBSD administration, says students, with some exceptions, “are expected to wear the attire customarily worn for the graduation ceremony at their school.” Exceptions would be made for students who want to adorn their cap, gown or stole with traditional objects of tribal regalia or “recognized objects of cultural significance.”

The policy defines “cultural regalia” as formal wear used in recognized practices and traditions of a certain group of people. It defines “adornment” as something attached to or worn with the cap, gown and stole customarily worn at a school graduation ceremony.

To their cap, gown or stole, the policy would newly prohibit students from decorating those items with anything other than their name and graduating class year, such as “Class of 2024.” All other written statements, phrases or slogans would not be permitted.

The policy does not say which person or entity will be responsible for enforcing the policy, but says the school district has the discretion to prohibit an item likely to disrupt or interfere with a school’s graduation ceremony.

KPBSD Assistant Superintendent Kari Dendurent said during a Monday meeting of the board’s Policies and Procedures Committee that the proposed policy was brought forth by KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland in response to conversations he’s had with school administrators about what is and is not allowed.

“What this is doing is it’s keeping us out of trouble,” Dendurent said.

Board member Kelley Cizek said she is “not a fan” of the verbiage used in the proposed policy because it may create new problems and negatively impact a part of graduation that is important to seniors.

“It’s a memory they’re creating as well as just this expression of this freedom and this seems to me like the case of one bad apple ruining it for everybody,” she said.

Committee chair Virginia Morgan and board member Jason Tauriainen said the board should wait before taking action to hear more information about why the policy was introduced from Holland, who did not attend Monday’s committee meeting. Tauriainen suggested that any type of policy limiting graduation regalia should more specifically identify what the district will not allow, rather than what it will allow.

“I think we should be specific — what are we trying to stop — and then just state those things,” Tauriainen said. “If somebody wants to put a Scripture reference on there or wants to make a comment about some other thing, I don’t really see a problem with that because that’s their own personal way of speaking out at that time. I don’t think we should have just a blanket restriction.”

Committee members indicated that they would invite Holland to participate in their next meeting to further explain the policy.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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