Caps and Gowns: Students Choice

Hannah Rippstein, Columnist

Black or white? A question our graduating students have been asked for the last few years. A question our graduating students this year were not asked. In previous years, students were able to choose whether they wore black or white to their graduation. This year, however, rather than being asked to select black or white, seniors were required to indicate male or female on their order forms. Last week seniors picking up their caps and gowns realized that whether they selected male or female impacted the color graduation gown they were given.  

“At first I always thought that they let us choose white or black, but when I filled [the order form] out, it was like male or female,” Jaime Macias ‘21 explains.

Macias says there was no communication that there was not a choice of color for caps and gowns this year. He did not find out that he was assigned a black gown until he was speaking with his classmates and realized that they were not asked what they wanted either. 

When people started finding out that they got automatically assigned a cap and gown color, they started getting very mad

— Jaime Macias '21

“When people started finding out that they got automatically assigned a cap and gown color, they started getting very mad,” Macias says. 

In order to get the color cap and gown they want, students have been trading. Mrs. Nicole Dewell, Geography and AVID teacher, is helping students get the color they want.

“We were just trying to get kids to switch amongst themselves, and I am getting other ones from kids who graduated so that we can get people the color that they want,” Ms. Dewell explains. 

Jaime himself traded his cap and gown a few times, from black to white, and then back to black. This act of trading among students has been common. 

One positive outcome of all of this is that it has encouraged students to take charge and speak up for themselves. When the students realized that they were not given a choice, they took it into their own hands to find the color that they want and that will make them feel good about themselves at their graduation.

Students did not get to choose the color of their caps and gowns this year, but Katie Novak ’21 is happy with the white gown she received. (Hannah Rippstein)

But overall, this move to assign students cap and gown colors based on gender is a step backwards. Not since the class of 2016 have cap and gown colors been assigned by gender. The class of 2016 was the last class to have boys wear black and girls wear red. For the class of 2017 and since, the colors were switched to black and white, our school’s official colors, and students have been allowed to pick which color they wear. Students could make a decision based on fashion choices or consideration of the heat. Being able to pick your own cap and gown color was also gender inclusive. Students who are nonbinary and trans were no longer misgendered by their graduation gowns. This year’s switch not only forced students to pick a gender on the form that they don’t necessarily identify with, but then they got assigned a color that goes along with that gender.

It is also important to think about how this has impacted out non binary students. The order form did not provide an option for students who do not identify with a gender. 

Even if Eagle Valley administration was not aware of the change in the gown order form from Herff Jones, the cap and gown company, they participated in a process that took away student freedom. I think it is important that our school works to correct this problem. For next year’s class, the school must transition back to color choice and providing students with other options that reflect how they identify.