An East Valley High School policy that doesn’t allow graduating seniors to wear stoles representing the branch of military service they will be joining after graduation has one parent confused and upset.
Joe Wiedmer’s youngest son, Quinton, will be joining the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation, carrying on a family tradition of military service. The Marines gave him a stole to wear during his graduation ceremony, but he learned Friday that he won’t be allowed to wear it during the ceremony scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the First Interstate Center for the Arts in downtown Spokane.
Wiedmer said he was told by Principal Matt Stevens that the graduation dress code has banned stoles from military branches for the last five years. But Wiedmer said that his older sons, who graduated in 2018 and 2021, also joined the military and were allowed to wear their military stoles when they graduated from East Valley.
“My two sons already graduated and they were both allowed to wear their branch -specific stuff,” said Wiedmer, who is a disabled Army veteran. “It just really upsets me.”
Stephens said the policy has been in place for five years and was spelled out in a letter sent home to parents in April. “The rule is the rule,” he said. “The policy was announced and read during graduation practice today.”
The dress code limits students to cords, sashes and stoles issued by the school. The school does give students joining the military a red, white and blue cord to recognize their upcoming service, and those joining the military are also asked to stand and be recognized during the graduation ceremony, Stephens said.
“We believe serving our country is an honorable and noble thing, which we want to recognize,” he said.
In Tacoma this week, the Clover Park School District reversed a decision that would have barred a pair of students who wanted to wear Black pride-themed stoles, according to a report by the Tacoma News Tribune.
The stoles were originally considered “too liberal,” the students told the paper.
A picture of Chase Wiedmer taken at his 2021 graduation at East Valley High School shows him wearing a large, prominent stole with the words “U.S. Army” embroidered on one side and the U.S. Army logo on the other. He’s also wearing a red, white and blue cord.
Stephens said he’s not sure why Wiedmer’s other sons were able to wear their military stoles at graduation. “Whether it was policed or enforced, I don’t know,” he said.
There are typically staff members who walk among students as they line up to check for dress code violations, Stephens said. He said he’s not the person who monitors for policy violations. “I’m usually up front,” he said.
The purpose of the policy is to ensure a common and consistent uniform for graduates, Stephens said. “If you open up cords and sashes, you open it up to everyone,” he said. “We don’t have cords, buttons, sashes or stoles from other groups.”
The only deviation from the dress code is that students are allowed to decorate the tops of their caps. Wiedmer said if the school doesn’t have a problem with that, they shouldn’t have a problem with his son wearing a Marine Corps stole. “He’s really upset,” he said. “This is something he’s been passionate about for a long time.”