Indiana high school grads may soon be allowed to wear military uniforms at commencement

PFC Jacob Stanley wanted to wear his dress blues to graduation at Crown Point High School in 2016, but school officials said no.

INDIANAPOLIS (Statehouse File) — Indiana high school students in the military could soon be allowed to wear their dress uniforms to graduation in place of the traditional cap and gown.

Rep. Mike Aylesworth's bill, HB 1055, stems from an incident at Crown Point High School where a student wasn't allowed to wear his Marine uniform during commencement.

The House Education Committee passed the bill Tuesday, 11-2. It now heads to the full House for a vote.

Lisa Tanselle, general counsel of the Indiana School Boards Association, said her organization opposes the bill because each individual school board creates its own dress code. The bill will take away the ability of the school corporation to make the decision themselves and ensure their personal standards are represented.

“Graduation is...the last time that [students] stand united,” Tanselle said.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. (ret.) Ron Martin testified for the bill, noting that other schools acknowledge their military students during the graduation ceremony. He is also chair of the Military Veterans Coalition, a group that advocates for veterans.

“Yes, they are not wearing a cape, but they are our heroes today,” Martin said.

Martin said these individuals should be commended and acknowledged for their commitment to this country, and this bill should be approved so they are recognized throughout the state.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, and Rep. Edward DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, both former military members, voted no because administrators are free to either respect or disrespect the decision to wear a military uniform to graduation.

DeLaney said a resolution would be more appropriate since there is only the one case. Lucas said he is a “big believer in freedom” and administrators have the right to deny a student’s request to wear their dress uniform.

“They can maintain control of what they want to do,” Lucas said.

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