Graduation gown debate overcomplicated a simple issue


A photo posted on Shaler Area website that provides a preview of what the new graduation caps and gowns will look like.

Jack Salego

Some people dread it, others think about it for months. Graduation remains one of the biggest milestones in life for high school students and signifies a transition into adulthood.
“Being able to walk amongst my peers after 12 years of schooling together knowing we had all finally made it, and we’re moving onto greater things was an indescribable feeling. Not only was it amazing to do that with my close friends, but seeing my family in the audience and knowing how proud they were of me made me feel on top of the world,” 2022 Shaler graduate Dawsen Lysko said.
A significant amount of people don’t really think about this big day until their senior year.
At Shaler Area, that has not been the case recently. From parents to teachers to community members to students, everyone was talking about graduation… in November.
The school had announced last year that a unified cap and gown would be happening for the class of 2023 and chaos ensued. 2021 had talks about changing the caps and gowns, but it didn’t become as big of a problem until real public talks began.
The school put out a contest last year letting students submit designs for a new cap and gown, but only three designs were submitted. I wonder why. It’s a gown. Look all around the country, colleges especially, and you’ll see singular color gowns, some of which have nothing to do with the school’s colors.
The gowns should never be the emphasis of graduation. It marks a new chapter in life, and makes the schooling you received along the way feel worth the struggles that went along with it.
“The day I graduated high school was a day full of emotions, and I could not have been more grateful to be a part of something so special,” Lysko said.

That’s what the entire issue should have been, a simple issue. The gowns used to be gender locked, but lost that restriction more than 10 years ago… Everyday we should strive to make the world a better place, but we wasted way too much time to change one day of the year.

While those are the important emotions about graduation, they aren’t the ones that are being focused on.
Everyone has an opinion, but no one can agree on what to do with the gowns. I didn’t think it would be such a mind boggling concept to just keep them blue and white.
The gowns haven’t been gender-locked since 2009, so why is it causing so much uproar now? Sure, the world is a much different place than in 2009, but is this really the biggest issue we should be tackling towards inclusivity?
One day, actually only a couple of hours, for seniors is at the center of this. Is this really the most effective thing to do? Scrolling through social media, it seemed like most agreed with me.
“I saw a general dislike of the new gowns, mostly from seniors. Everyone was posting petitions to change them back to the way they were previous years,” senior Trey Grazier said.
With a change this big you can’t please every single person. It just simply isn’t possible. But as you look at the timeline of events, it is outright embarrassing. A survey about the gowns was emailed to 1000 students but only 400 responses were received which is embarrassing. Then there was a town hall meeting where parents argued nonstop? Even worse.
Shaler Area is a good school and a good community. It really is. Laugh all you want. We have one of the biggest homecoming parade traditions, Millvale Days, massive 4th of July events, Lite Up Night, and the list goes on and on.
We do so many things that deserve praise, which makes the whole cap and gown argument so disappointing as we have highlighted some of the divisions in our district.
The first gown chosen was horrid. I mean that in every sense of the word. I would hate to graduate in that or to see my kids graduate in that.
It was blue with red and white on the sleeves and the colors just didn’t mesh together well that way. A big red line and a big white line on the sleeves just didn’t fit the formality of graduation. The sleeves looked like a college football jersey.
“I think the first redesigned gown was flat out hideous. I was very disappointed. I believe the outrage by the senior class was completely justified,” senior Chase Schiffhauer said.
Finally the official statement came out for the new gowns was made. A universal blue gown with a small Titan head logo on the left side of the chest. Simple, but effective.
That’s what the entire issue should have been, a simple issue. The gowns used to be gender locked, but lost that restriction more than 10 years ago.
You shouldn’t get rid of the gowns that have been a tradition for so long. Everyday we should strive to make the world a better place, but we wasted way too much time to change one day of the year.
Two years were spent debating these gowns, and in that time span we saw a complete divide in Shaler Area. Whenever graduation approaches I’m concerned that frenzy will come back to life, and it will feel as if all the fighting didn’t solve anything. We can do better.