Commencement controversy over military tassels

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A local school district says it may change the rules after a commencement controversy.

The family of a New Castle High School senior said the school singled out their son for wearing Army emblems at graduation. Cody McCormick was told to take off the tassel and cords that were given to him by his recruiter.

The district is specific about what seniors can and can't wear to graduation. These parents want changes so students going into the military are honored, too.

Cody McCormick's parents couldn't have been more proud when their son enlisted in the Army to serve his country. He signed up to become a soldier, just like his grandfather.

"This is his calling," said Cody's mother, Kimberly McCormick.

"We're very, very proud of his commitment, extremely proud," added his father, Brent McCormick.

The New Castle senior planned to display that pride with gold cords and tassels that were given to him by his military recruiter. But on graduation day Sunday, his family says school leaders saw what he'd worn and said, 'No.' Cody was told to remove the army emblems because they were against the district's commencement policy.

"This was a chance to showcase what he wants to do with his life and it was taken from him," Cody's father said. "That school corporation really, in our opinion, dishonored him by doing what they did."

When Cody brought the cords to his parents in the school gym, they told him if he felt strongly about it, to wear the cord and tassel anyway.

"This is just something you have to stand up for and say, 'I'm proud'," Kimberly McCormick explained.

His family says when Cody went to get his diploma after the ceremony, unlike other grads, he had to wait about a half an hour.

"He was instructed at the time that he needed to go talk to the principal to retrieve his diploma. He did get it, but we almost felt like they held his diploma hostage because of what he did," Brent McCormick said.

New Castle's principal, Chris Walker, told Eyewitness News that Cody's diploma was not delayed on purpose. He said students were told ahead of the ceremony that they couldn't wear specialized tassels because they are reserved for National Honor Society and Technical Honor Society students, which are the same gold color.

He said military students are allowed and encouraged to wear a pin on their gown that signifies their branch of service, but not different tassels or cords.

Cody's parents say the policy needs to change.

"Just honor them. We want to help change the policy for future military seniors," Kimberly McCormick said. "This is something to be acknowledged and appreciated."

"I understand you have to draw the line, but let's draw it after we honor these kids," Brent McCormick said. "I want to see those kids who are getting ready to sacrifice and commit their life recognized or at least not punished because they chose to wear their military tassel or their cord."

New Castle's principal said they are very supportive of students enlisting in the military. Walker said the district may consider other options so they honor enlisted students along with the honor society students.