House committee OKs military uniforms at high school graduation

By Kirsten Nielsen
TheStatehouseFile.com

 INDIANAPOLIS — A state House committee passed legislation Tuesday that would allow high school students in the military to wear their dress uniforms to graduation in place of the traditional cap and gown.

This bill stems from an incident at Crown Point High School where a student was not allowed to wear his Marine uniform during commencement.

House Bill 1055, authored by Rep. Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron, passed the Education Committee with an 11-2 vote. HB 1055 now goes back to the House for action.

The House Education Committee gathers around to discuss House Bill 1055 which would allow students to wear their military uniforms at their high school graduation. Photo by Eddie Drews, TheStatehouseFile.com

Lisa Tanselle, general counsel of the Indiana School Boards Association, said her organization opposes the bill because each individual school board creates its own dress code. The bill will take away the of the school corporation to make the decision.

“Graduation is … the last time that [students] stand united,” Tanselle said.

Tanselle also said the ISBA wants corporations to maintain local control of their dress code so their personal standards are represented.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. (ret.) Ron Martin testified for the bill, noting that other schools acknowledge their military students during the graduation ceremony. He is also chair of the Military Veterans Coalition, a group that advocates for veterans.

“Yes, they are not wearing a cape, but they are our heroes today,” Martin said.

Martin said these individuals should be commended and acknowledged for their commitment to this country, and this bill should be approved so they are recognized throughout the state.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, and Rep. Edward DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, both former military members, voted no because administrators are free to either respect or disrespect the decision to wear a military uniform to graduation.

DeLaney said a resolution would be more appropriate since there is only the one case. Lucas said he is a “big believer in freedom” and administrators have the right to deny a student’s request to wear their dress uniform.

“They can maintain control of what they want to do,” Lucas said.

Kirsten Nielsen is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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