School won't let teen wear Marine uniform to graduation

Mac Hamlin says he won't take part in graduation at Wisconsin's Hudson High unless he's allowed to wear his Marine Corps dress blues.

A Wisconsin high school senior who is joining the Marines wants to wear his military uniform to graduation but the principal won't let him.

Mac Hamlin is graduating early from Hudson High School in Hudson, Wis., and ships off to boot camp this week. He plans to be back in time for the June 15 graduation but says he won't take part in the ceremony unless he's allowed to wear his Marine Corps dress blues.

"If I'm not going to be able to wear my dress blues, I'm just not going to walk. It's not that important to me," Hamlin told the Hudson Patch. "It's not about the clothes, it's about the principle."

The school's graduation dress code is white caps and gowns for girls and blue for boys.

Hamlin said Principal Laura Love told him that if she made an exception for him, she'd feel like she would have to make all sorts of exceptions for other people too.

Love did not immediately return a telephone call from MSN News for comment on Monday.

The Hudson School District issued a statement on Monday saying the principal and the district "highly value military service and the choice of some Hudson High School graduates to serve our country in this most honorable way."

The statement added:

"To change a longstanding practice such as HHS graduation dress code standards, a formal written request by a specific member of the graduating class would need to be submitted to the principal for consideration. To date, Principal Laura Love has not received a written request for an exception to the graduation dress code to wear a military uniform from a specific member of the Class of 2013. Instead, Principal Laura Love has received questions about the dress code and military attire from individuals."

Readers of the Hudson Patch story sounded off on both sides of the issue.

"Mac Hamlin is an outstanding young man in every way. If Ms. Love thought this through, she would be proud to have him participate in the graduation ceremony. Enforcing an arbitrary rule just because it might lead to others asking for special treatment in some hypothetical future scenario is pure intellectual laziness," Sarah Anderson wrote.

"A member of a group (Class of 2013) wants to do something that is different and would set himself apart from the group. Even if school policy allowed this, I would proudly oppose it," wrote Mohhand Battah. "Why are we always creating exceptions for the ones that do not want to follow the set rules? If anything, HHS should be ashamed that we have issues like this. If we are not to obey the rules, why were they created?"

"Good grief! Laura Love is not un-American or un-patriotic, she has the duty to enforce the policy set by the administration and the school board (like a Marine serving under the authority of another)," Scott Erlenborn wrote. "There is plenty of time for this issue to be taken to the school board who should decide on whether or not to allow exceptions for military uniforms. Why this was not done prior to it being sent to the media is concerning. There are good arguments both for and against such a change. I would favor such a change, but would not condemn anyone personally who has a differing opinion. As a community we really need to turn down the level of vitriol and stop trying to devour one another."
 

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Marine Capt. Ken Kunze, spokesman for the Ninth Marine Corps District which covers Wisconsin, told the Hudson Patch that school regulations should be followed.

"If it's the school policy that they all wear caps and gowns, then obviously we're not going to tell the school that there's a problem with their policy," Kunze was quoted as saying.

It's not the first time a high school has been embroiled in a graduation uniform controversy. Last year, North Allegheny High School in Pennsylvania at first denied, then allowed a 17-year-old Marine to wear her military dress blues at her graduation.

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