Should Mac Hamlin be allowed to wear Marine Corps dress blues instead of a cap and gown at Hudson High School's commencement ceremony?
HUDSONPATCH.COM - A Hudson High School senior graduated early and is headed to Marine Corps boot camp. He asked to take part in the school's commencement ceremonies in June and hoped to wear his Marine Corps dress blues, but the principal said "no."
Hudson High School Principal Laura Love told a member of the Class of 2013 that he wouldn't be allowed to wear a military uniform in the school's graduation ceremonies in June, according to the student.
Mac Hamlin worked hard to meet all the requirements to earn his Hudson High diploma a full semester early, and he's set to ship off for Marine Corps recruit training on Monday. If all goes according to schedule, he plans to complete boot camp and be back in Hudson for the June 15 graduation ceremony.
But he won't take part in the ceremony unless he can wear his Marine Corps dress blues.
"If I'm not going to be able to wear my dress blues, I'm just not going to walk. It's not that important to me," Hamlin said. "It's not about the clothes, it's about the principle."
Hamlin said he didn't want to make a big deal out of the matter, but his sister Tiffiny Bradley posted information about it on multiple Twin Cities media Facebook pages, including KSTP, KARE, WCCO, KMSP, the Hudson Star-Observer and Hudson Patch.
Hamlin said Love gave three reasons last month for not allowing him to wear his uniform in the ceremony.
"She wanted the whole thing to be uniform with all the girls in white and the boys in blue," Hamlin said. "She wanted the attention to be about the ceremony, and not so much about other things. And she also told me that if she started making changes in my case she'd have to do it for other stuff, like if people wanted to wear different things for other reasons she would feel like she would have to allow that stuff too."
The Hudson School District issued the following statement:
Principal Love, district administration, and the Board of Education highly value military service and the choice of some Hudson High School graduates to serve our country in this most honorable way. The "Window of Honor" at the High School, which contains photos of graduates who served or are currently serving in the military, is a daily reminder of the value and honor of military service.
The media has released a story about a HHS student who has graduated early, has enlisted in the Marines, is leaving for basic training this week, and wants to wear the military uniform instead of the traditional cap and gown at graduation. In this case, privacy law restricts the district from identifying or commenting about a specific student. Therefore, the district's statement must be made in general terms.
To change a long standing practice such as HHS graduation dress code standards, a formal written request by a specific member of the graduating class would need to be submitted to the principal for consideration. To date, Principal Laura Love has not received a written request for an exception to the graduation dress code to wear a military uniform from a specific member of the Class of 2013. Instead, Principal Love has received questions about the dress code and military attire from individuals. She has responded based on long standing past practice and what the high school ceremony represents - a culminating successful accomplishment of required work during the high school years. If a written request to the principal for such a change or exception to the graduation dress code to wear a military uniform is received from a member of the graduating class, consideration will be made by the Board of Education since this decision could affect all future graduation ceremonies.
Love has not yet responded to Patch's request for comment, but the school's website provides the following caps and gowns information for senior students:
Seniors planning to participate in the Commencement Ceremony must purchase a cap and gown through Jostens. All students must wear the traditional cap and gown; girls will wear white caps and gowns, and boys will wear blue caps and gowns. Students will not be able to pick up their cap and gown if an outstanding balance remains. Please check the web site at jostens.com if you think you have an outstanding balance.
Hamlin said his brother walked in his graduation ceremony in an out-of-state high school, and he had heard that schools in Somerset, River Falls and Stillwater allowed the practice, but there's at least one case where the Marine Corps has stepped in to order a Marine to wear a cap and gown.
In June 2011, North Allegheny Senior High School in Pennsylvania was put in the same situation when Marine Corps Pvt. Lindsay Starr, then a 17-year-old and early graduate, asked to take part in graduation in her dress blues.
Initially the school denied Starr's request citing policy that states graduates wear a cap and gown. Later, the school changed it's mind and said it would allow the uniform, but the Marines ordered the graduate to wear a cap and gown for the ceremony. And that's what Starr did.
Hamlin's recruiter, Marine Sgt. Brandon Blazer said the following in a Facebook message:
"While it's unfortunate that Mac cannot walk in his Blue Dress uniform, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is worn on the heart of every Marine who has earned the title. Mac is a gentleman. Smart, tough, and mature beyond his years with an absolutely professional approach towards his goals. He is exactly what the Marine Corps is looking for in young men and women. As a recruiter, these young people were never hard to find in the Hudson Community. I came to find a lot in common with the people of the Hudson community: Hard workers who love their families above all else. A community that never waivers in their support of our young men and women in uniform. And a community for which these kids long to return to when their days wearing the uniform are done. A community they love to call home."
Marine Capt. Ken Kunze, public affairs officer for the Ninth Marine Corps District, said that it's not uncommon for Marines to wear dress blues for community events such as high school graduation ceremonies, but he advised that school policies should be followed.
"If it's the school policy that they all wear caps and gowns, then obviously we're not going to tell the school that there's a problem with their policy," Kunze said. "We encourage Marines to follow the rules of the organization that they're working with, especially when it comes to community relations events. If there are rules and guidelines that community events have as far as uniformity and things of that nature, then we encourage Marines to abide by those rules."
This post was originally published at 7:19 p.m. on March 9, 2013. Comments from Blazer, Kunze and the Hudson School District were added after this post was first published. This post will continue to be updated as new information and statements are received.