CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Board of Education said Tuesday it intends to draft a policy and later vote on a dress code for county high school graduations.

At a recent school board meeting, all four area high school principals offered their opinions on whether or not to allow students to decorate their graduation caps and gowns to be worn at local commencements. 

“All the principals were here last month, as some of you may remember, to discuss their thoughts about whether students should be able to decorate their caps and or gowns,” board President Laurie Marchini said during a work session on Tuesday. “And I believe it was left that only one principal had really not experienced any issues with it, was happy to let the kids do it, while the other three saw potential problems.”

Currently, Fort Hill is the only area high school allowing students to decorate commencement garb, while the remaining three — Allegany, Mountain Ridge and the Center for Career & Technology Education — prohibit the practice. The issue was brought to the board after Kevin Spradlin’s son, Noah, a 2017 Mountain Ridge graduate, was unable to personalize his graduation cap. 

“We had a constituent come and speak at our June meeting, I believe it was, that their child was not allowed to decorate their cap at Mountain Ridge,” board Vice President Sara Beth Bittinger said, “and so that’s why it was sent to policy to look at what’s in place, what our principals are doing.” 

If the board allows students to decorate their cap and gown, which is still up for debate, members agree that guidelines must be in place to eliminate profanity.

“Some students may not be going to college,” board member Tammy Fraley said, “this may be their one chance to shine, and I think that they should have the opportunity, within guidelines, and I think the guidelines here should be specific and provide that information so there is no question.”

“Using the example that we had before,” Fraley said, “‘Thanks mom and dad’ on the back of their hat. Honestly, as a parent, if I saw my child thanking me for what they did through high school, I would be honored.”

Board member Wayne Foote, a former local art teacher, also agrees graduates should have the option to decorate commencement clothing.

“Being an art teacher ... I think a lot of kids put a lot of time, art, into what they put on their hats,” Foote said. “I think the (Fort Hill) principal and vice principal made it quite clear to us that they monitor what is being put on the hats and they can say ‘no, you can’t do that.’ 

“So I think it should be there, but it has to be monitored,” he said.

Follow staff writer Heather Wolford on Twitter @heatherbwolford.

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