A suburban Chicago school district is under fire after school officials refused to let a high school student walk at graduation because she was wearing a military uniform instead of a cap and gown.
According to students, McHenry High School West Campus did not let Megan Howerton, a U.S. Marine, walk during the school’s graduation ceremony Thursday night, citing a dress code issue because she was wearing her dress blues.
News of the decision was posted to social media, where it stirred controversy among many and sparked the hashtag #Letmeganwalk.
McHenry Community High School District 156 addressed the criticism in a statement Friday, saying "the attention related to last night’s graduation ceremony at McHenry High School West Campus is unfortunate and draws attention away from the collective achievements of the Class of 2016."
"The district and administration in no way looked to prevent the participation of this graduate or any graduate who has chosen to serve our nation,” the statement read. "Rather, the administration communicated in advance via letter, senior meeting, and practice, all the protocols expected of graduates, including attire. In some past cases, active-duty students elected to wear their gowns over top of their military uniforms, with their military hats, which was allowed. There was no communication to the administration that attire protocols would not be followed prior to the ceremony. The tradition of cap and gown regalia is aimed at the idea that our graduates are celebrated as a whole and in similar attire.”
Many have since noted that it is against protocol to cover up the uniform, however.
According to the U.S. Marine Corps Uniform Board, wearing a cap and gown over a uniform is not allowed as it is considered similar to outerwear.
Sgt. Trevon Peracca also confirmed Howerton is a Marine, saying she graduated early from the school and completed boot camp.
"McHenry Community High School has a long standing history of avid support for our military branches of service," the school said in a statement. "This includes individual recognition of enlistees at the graduation ceremony itself, including enlistees in the presentation of the colors, and special recognition to all veterans in the audience. In addition, the cooperation with recruiters year-round, a day-long, Veteran’s Day program in our schools each year, and a variety of community service partnerships with local veteran’s groups are priorities of the district."
Howerton could not immediately be reached for comment.