The Great Gown Debate

Olivia Pena, Student Writer

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There has been a lot of discussion regarding the graduation cap and gowns for the class of 2019. At the beginning of February, it was rumored that all of the gowns would be green, rather than the male students wearing green gowns and the female students wearing white gowns. This prompted a negative response among the students, specifically the female senior students. One female senior, in particular, created a petition on Change.org that received over 600 signatures in efforts to keep the tradition of girls wearing white gowns. The girls argued that they had already gotten their senior portraits taken in white gowns, wanted to preserve the tradition, and did not feel that their opinions were taken into account. We interviewed one senior girl who signed the petition about why she chose to sign it. She said, “I was really mad because my older sister graduated in white and I took my senior pictures in white. I wanted my voice to be heard.” She told us, “I think it’s a better compromise to let us pick the color what we want.”

Following the mass circulation of the petition, the administration sent a message out to the class of 2019. The message stated, “that the decision has not been made yet,” in regards to changing the gowns to all green. It went on to explain that there was a consideration for the students to wear all green gowns with a white stole. The stole would have a Pennridge academic seal on one side and if a student received a Latin honors cum laude recognition, then that would also be displayed on the other side. The goal would be to create a “unified representation of Pennridge.” The message said that the administration would be meeting with groups of students about the decision. As a member of the Class of 2019 Executive Council, I was able to participate in a discussion with Ms. DeBona, Principal, Mr. Ott, Assistant Principal, and Dr. Price, Director of Administration.  At this meeting, students in the council were able to voice their opinions, ideas, and suggestions regarding the change. Ms. DeBona and Mr. Ott were receptive of the students’ perspectives and were willing to take suggestions. They showed us an example of what the stole would look like with the Pennridge seal so we could visualize the different options.

Eventually, we were able to come to the agreement of the girls still wearing white gowns and the boys wearing green gowns, with everyone wearing a white stole with the Pennridge academic seal on one side and, if earned, academic recognition on the other side. According to Ms. DeBona, the Latin honors are as follows, “Summa Cum Laude is a GPA of 4.2+, Magna Cum Laude is a GPA of 3.900-4.199, and Cum Laude is a GPA of 3.600-3.899.”  She said, “Students have worked hard and deserve to be recognized for their efforts throughout their high school career.” However, since everyone will have a white stole with the Pennridge seal, it will maintain the representation of a unified graduating class. Additionally, the girls will still be able to wear white caps and gowns as desired. While the decision has not been finalized yet, Ms. DeBona and Mr. Ott said they will keep us informed and make their final decision based off of the students’ ideas.