IONIA, Mich. – Graduation is considered a rite of passage for students. Many like to have their mortarboards decorated while receiving their diplomas. But at Ionia High School, everyone will look the same this year. Principal Ben Gurk sent out a note this week that declared that decorated caps will not be allowed.
That is not sitting well with some students and parents.
“This is something that you’re taking away not only from their senior year but from the rest of their lives,” says Abby Read, a 2016 graduate of Ionia High School. “This is something they are going to show their children, their grandchildren, and not having that is just going to be sad.”
Some students are upset because they’ve already spent a lot of time preparing the decorations. Some of them wanted to decorate the mortarboards to honor loved ones.
“My best friend lost his mom this year,” says Taylor Osborne, a graduating senior, "and he wanted to honor her through his cap. They had planned that early on. And now that he can’t do that, he’s a bit distraught.”
“My grandma passed away three years ago, and I was really close with her,” says senior Mackenzie Bongard, "and I was going to put something on my graduation cap. And it’s personal, because now I can’t honor her on my cap."
Principal Gurk told FOX 17 News the graduation ceremony is a formal event, and he wants it to be respectable and classy for the entire community. He said drawing on mortarboards takes away from that respect and some could be inappropriate.
Gurk also said he is willing to meet with anyone who has concerns about the decision.
FOX 17 News also spoke with Superintendent Ron Wilson, who said he stands behind the principal’s decision.
Students started a petition they want to take to the school board in an effort to reverse the decoration ban. They've nearly reached their goal of 1,000 signatures.