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Thursday, September 28, 2023
Sept. 28, 2023

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Two Woodland graduates’ stoles set off debate

Officials say school district rules forbade Navy sash being worn

By , Columbian Staff Writer

A decision that Woodland High School Principal John Shoup made shortly before the school’s graduation ceremony June 7 caused a bit of a stir on the internet, leading to some less-than-friendly calls and emails to the district.

Two students who are entering the U.S. Navy after graduation were presented with stoles — sashes graduates drape around their necks — by a recruiter earlier in the week. The students asked on the day of graduation if they could wear them while they walked in the ceremony, and Shoup said no.

“Our high school commencement exercises are and forever have been a celebration of what students have accomplished in their high school career,” Woodland Superintendent Michael Green said.

The district was inundated with so many emails and calls that district officials put out a statement the afternoon of June 9. Green said he was first made aware of some complaints online and on social media that morning.

According to the district’s response, “offering special recognition for one student’s future plans over those of another’s denigrates the plans of other students when their paths aren’t recognized equally. In accordance with the student handbook, only three school organizations recognize graduates with special cord adornments — not stoles — serving to identify significant academic accomplishments.”

The three ways to be recognized during graduation are to be a student with a GPA in the top 5 percent of the graduating class, students who are National Honor Society members and students who are Woodland Academic Scholars.

“These cords recognize achievements made during a student’s academic career, not their plans for the future such as enlisting in the military, attending a college or working as an apprentice,” the district’s response read.

There was an event the week of graduation to honor students and their future plans, Green said, including scholarships, those going into the military and those going to college. He said that nearly 160 students walked in graduation, and estimated 10 to 12 of them are entering a branch of the military after school ends.

Green said he thinks the statement cleared up some misinformation that was spreading online, as calls and emails have slowed down in more recent days. He also said it has always been the district’s policy that the graduation ceremony is intended to honor students’ academic accomplishments from high school and not their future plans.

Columbian Staff Writer