DALLAS — When Dallas High School junior Hailey McBride asked about why DHS doesn’t allow seniors to decorate their graduation caps, she didn’t get a definitive answer.
“When I asked teachers and administrators why we couldn’t, the only way that they could explain it to me was that that was just one more thing for a teacher to do on graduation day,” McBride said in a presentation to the Dallas School Board on May 13. “They couldn’t explain to me why they couldn’t.”
Unsatisfied with that answer, McBride decided to do more research, and possibly change the informal policy. She approached DHS Principal Steve Spencer, who said where the rule came from, and how to make a case to the board that is should be changed.
McBride said the state issues rules allowing students to add religious or cultural symbols to their caps, but doesn’t address other expressions.
“Some of us aren’t really that deep into religion,” she said. “Some of us are a lot of different things. We aren’t enough of one thing to have that heritage and that culture behind us.”
As for the origin of the rule, Spencer also wasn’t certain when it began.
“I don’t know if it is a written policy. I’ve only been in the district for 20 years, and it’s been that way for at least that long. So, I can’t give you a good answer, which is what I think led to the presentation tonight,” Spencer said. “The dignity of the event — we try to have a good, dignified celebration — so that’s been a standard bearer for at least 20 years. But I don’t know where it came from.”
Members of the board asked McBride, who transferred from McKay High School in Salem, to do more research. McKay students are allowed to decorate their caps, so McBride said she would get a copy of the school’s policy for review at DHS.
“If you are willing, because you’ve already put a lot of time in, that would be a way to give us some kind of guidance to say why not, rather than having to reinvent the wheel,” said board member Dave Hunt.
Her suggestion was that seniors submit drawings of what they would like to put on their caps for approval.
“Some of it could be inappropriate for school, but there are so many rules we could put down,” she said. “If someone doesn’t listen to those rules, they were given the rules and they knew better.”
She said checking caps is part of the pre-graduation process to make sure students aren’t sneaking items into the ceremony. Cap art designs could be checked at that time.
“I don’t see why looking at the top of it is any harder than looking inside of it,” she said.
Board members said they didn’t feel this was a topic for a board policy, but could be addressed at the school level.
Spencer said the rule wasn’t changed for Friday’s ceremony, but he welcomes working with McBride to make the switch for her graduating class.
“There are plenty of times in this job where the answer is simply ‘because that’s the way we’ve always done it and I don’t have an answer.’ It’s completely fine to challenge someone on why you do things.”