District 200 promotes equity by implementing caps and gowns for commencement

October 25, 2018

Oct. 25, 2018 – At its regular monthly meeting this evening, the Board of Education approved the administration’s recommendation to change the graduation attire to caps and gowns, beginning with the class of 2019.

The change in attire eliminates inequities based on gender identity, socioeconomic status, and race. Beginning in the late 1870s, the required commencement attire was white dresses for girls and dark suits for boys. In 2016 this requirement was altered so that any student could wear either an all-white or all-dark dress, skirt and top, pant suit, or suit. For transgender, non-binary, gender-fluid, and gender-questioning students, however, these options are problematic because they still conform to societal stereotypes of male and female styles of dressing. The issue is especially fraught when students are not out to their parents or other family members and feel they must choose among outing themselves, wearing attire that doesn’t fit with their gender identity, or skipping the ceremony altogether. Additionally, the expense of graduation attire can be a burden for families of lower socioeconomic status, who are disproportionately families of color. Caps and gowns will cost $27 per student.

“We recognize that change can be difficult to accept, especially when it comes to long-standing and beloved traditions,” Superintendent Dr. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams said. “But this is what equity is about: taking deliberate action to ensure that the rights and interests of marginalized populations are protected. At a time when equity is a huge focus of local public discourse, the administration has decided to take what is, to some, a controversial stand in order to truly live--not just talk about--the values that we believe are important to our local community.”

The administration also recommended changing the venue to UIC Pavilion, which holds about twice as many guests as the stadium and would have eliminated the ticket limit of five per student. The Board voted down this recommendation.