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Milton High School grads get OK to wear military uniforms

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
June 11, 2011
— The Milton School District will allow two high school students to wear U.S. Marine uniforms instead of caps and gowns at graduation Sunday.

The students, who were early graduates from Milton High School this year, recently graduated from Marine boot camp. Their parents last week asked the district if the students could wear Marine dress uniforms at their graduation ceremony instead of traditional caps and gowns.


District administrators initially told the parents no because they believed the uniforms would be a distraction, Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said.


The district reconsidered after receiving dozens of calls and emails from parents and others opposing the decision, he said. Nikolay said so many parents seemed to feel strongly about the students’ military achievements that the district relented and let the students wear their uniforms.


Alyshia Fry of Milton is one of the two students who will wear Marine uniforms Sunday. Fry’s mother, Anne Fry, said she was dumbfounded when the district at first said her daughter couldn’t wear her uniform.


“You would think that the school district would say, ‘Look at these two kids and what they’ve accomplished already,’” Fry said. “You’d think they’d want to toot their own horn.”


Alyshia, 17, graduated with honors in January and graduated from boot camp in May with special distinctions, Fry said. She’ll be stationed in North Carolina later this month.


The district has no policy on graduation attire, and students have been allowed to wear whatever they want underneath traditional caps and gowns, Nikolay said.


Now that it’s made an exception, Nikolay said, the district is concerned that other students might want to wear nontraditional attire. It could be difficult to decide where to draw the line, he said.


“There’s certainly another side to it, and it’s not anti-military or anti-Marines. It’s looking at the big picture looking down the road at potential requests for many different types of things to be worn and what problems that might cause,” Nikolay said.


Nikolay said the school board and its policy committee plan to discuss whether students can wear nontraditional attire next year at graduation. He believes other area school districts could have similar discussions.


Milton student Johnnie Clark is the other Marine graduating Sunday. His mother, Lynda Clark, said she and a handful of local parents, some with military backgrounds, pushed the uniform request.


Clark said she’s gratified that the district is allowing her son and Fry to wear their uniforms. She believes the two went above and beyond when they graduated early and entered the Marines.


She said everyone in the military should get special credit because they are willing to die for their country.


“If we didn’t have our military recognized, how would we ever grow our troops and protect our freedoms?” Clark said.



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