D99 eliminated white graduation gowns at DGN and columbia blue gowns at DGS for the 2018 graduating class. The primary reason the district cited as problems involves the graduation procession and the change in honors recognition.
“[Last year] we had 12 or 13 set of twins. Some of the twins were on different sides because of the way we have to set up the line in order to get the lines straight. The parents were upset because they didn’t know which side to sit on. There were also some parents who missed the name of their kid because the [line] wasn’t in alphabetical order and their kid went up before the parents thought they would go,” principal Janice Schwarze said.
District representatives and a few assistant principals had the initial conversations about the change then brought it back to a bigger group of administration. Then as a team, everyone chose to follow through with the decision.
“As [administration] talked about pros and cons of the robes, the only real pro of having the two colors was the tradition, and there were lots of reasons for changing,” Schwarze said.“A benefit of this decision is for the transgender community although that was not the reason why we [changed the gown colors].”
Co-president of Prism senior Selma El-Badawi, supports and agrees with the change.
“The step prevents unnecessary gendering and the stress it leads to, especially for transgender or non binary students. However, this choice also has benefits for the entire student body,” El-Badawi said.
Senior Bella Cotterell started a public petition for DGN on Aug. 21 for people to sign in protest of D99 decision to change gown colors. Currently there are 754 signatures on the petition. (Cotterell is photography editor of The Omega, but her choice to make the petition acts on an individual decision and does not affiliate with The Omega.)
“Everyone’s always saying that we live in such a democracy where we have a choice.[Students] are the ones affected by this, but we’re not the ones making the choice,” Cotterell said.
DGS senior Nora Woods saw the petition Cotterell made and started a petition for DGS. Cotterell contacted Woods via social media to discuss how they should bring the issue up to their school administration. Currently, there are 401 signatures for Wood’s petition.
Cotterell and Woods presented a slide show to DGS principal Edward Schwartz on Aug. 30. They argued reasons why students should have a choice on which gown color they would like to wear. This includes points about freedom of choice, gender equality and tradition.
“At the end of our meeting with Mr. Schwartz, he mentioned that he would set up another meeting including, Nora, myself, both principals, and the superintendent. I see [the meeting] being taken to the next level because we are getting the superintendent involved. The way we presented [in the meeting] with the slide show and the formal petition shows that we are serious about this and that we want to make a change,” Cotterell said.
Schwarze does not foresee any revisions of the district’s position.
“The petition won’t change our minds because we didn’t make this change to one color robes lightly. While I am sure the people who signed the petition are well-intentioned, they don’t have the same information we have and thus cannot know what is best for the greater good.” Schwarze said.
Senior Jacob Drobnik feels indifferent about the change, but understands some female students’ point of view.
“I feel neutral in the matter, but I can imagine that if [the decision was to change to all white gowns], the male population would be upset much like the female students are now,” Drobnik said.
The meeting between Woods, Cotterell, both principals, and the superintendent will be held on Sept. 15. For the time being, information about the gowns are limited. Jostens, the company DGN hires for caps and gowns, will take orders until mid Oct.