Most of the members of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Class of 2010 graduates decided to stick with traditional colors at ceremonies Sunday. Purple and white predominated, despite the controversy surrounding a decision by the high school principal denying a request by Brazilian students that they be allowed to wear scarves with their country’s colors, at graduation. The school committee, voting 5-3, countermanded the principal and allowed the student request.
About ten students wore green, blue and yellow scarves. One student sported an American flag scarf and another a Hawaiian lei. There also were Mardi Gras beads, but the controversy gave way to the joy of the moment.
While queuing up for the ceremony, Eric Dolliver said, “I think everyone made a bigger deal out if it than it was,” he said. “If they [Brazilian students] want to wear their scarves, why is everybody stressing about it? It doesn’t concern the rest of us.”
About to graduate, Fernanda Silva, flanked by two of her friends also wearing Brazilian scarves, said, “We’re glad the community supported us. There are no words to explain how we feel. This is very important to us.”
The controversy began when principal Stephen Nixon met with several Brazilian students and denied their request to wear decorative scarves in their country’s colors. Mr. Nixon cited the school’s longstanding rules against wearing non-academic related decorative items with graduation gowns. He warned that ignoring the rule could result in disciplinary action.
But, on June 7, a week before the graduation, the regional high school district committee voted “to allow students to wears stoles at graduation without a two-day suspension.” Mr. Nixon and superintendent of schools James Weiss opposed the school committee’s action (June 10, “School sets aside dress code”).
Kevin O’Donnell borrowed an American flag scarf from his aunt’s house for the event. He said he was proud to wear his country’s colors.
“It’s a great feeling,” Mr. O’Donnell said.
D.J. Kaeka stepped onto the stage wearing a lei, representative of his Hawaiian heritage and a family tradition. Mr. Kaeka said three of his cousins that graduated in years past had worn leis.
“Everybody said it was a nice lei,” Mr. Kaeka said after the graduation ceremony, before posing for photos with Mr. O’Donnell. The two made a colorful pair with purple gowns and a ring of bright artificial flowers around one neck and the stars and stripes on the other.