Graduation Cap Dispute
Smoky Mountain High School Senior Kaitlyn Parker won't have the feeling she was hoping for come graduation day.
"I really want to wear it so bad," said Parker.
Her cousin took hours embellishing Kaitlyn's graduation cap with beads to celebrate her day as well as her Indian heritage.
"I'm proud of it," said Parker.
For weeks she's dreamed of wearing the cap but her plans came to a screeching halt.
"I had it sitting in the dashboard of my car to show it off because I was proud of it. One of the teachers walked by and seen(sic) and told."
Parker was told in no uncertain terms she could not wear the decorated hat.
"It's a school function and it goes under our guidelines for attire," said Jake Buchanan, Smoky Mountain High's Principal.
He said the superintendent spoke to the district's attorney who said school administrators are within their rights to dictate dress code.
On a memo sent to students and parents the school detailed the following:
"All seniors will wear the blue robe, the mortarboard(hat) and tassel. These are to be uniform, and the appearance of the items should not be altered to any extent."
The principal apologized for the fact students were given the cap and gown before the memo went out rather than the other way around.
Parker had her cap done before she received the note. The school principal apologized for any miscommunication and is providing Parker a new cap free of charge to wear on graduation day.
But that's not enough for Parker's mother who has contacted the ACLU and plans to contact an attorney and sue the school.
"They spent their life, elementary through High School. It's a one day celebration I say let them have that opportunity," said Pam Blankenship, Kaitlyn's mom.
"It disturbes me because it goes against everything we believe and what are traditions are. Just like the American Indian religious freedom act that was enacted in 1978 it goes against everything stated in that act," said Blankenship.
Blankenship said other schools allow students to embellish their caps. Some she says even have contests for the best in show.
The school principal pointed out students are allowed to wear badges and cords to celebrate academic achievement and honors. He said administrators have agreed to allow Kaitlyn to wear a feather on her cap to celebrate her Indian heritage. But as it stands, Kaitlyn can only participate in ceremonies if she goes along with administrator's rules and wears the uniform cap.
"I'll be mad walking without my cap beaded. I don't think I'll ever forget it. It just doesn't feel right."
By Kimberly King
Follow Kim on Twitter @kimkingreports