A girl can't graduate from high school because of . . . her shoes?
If last week’s story of the graduation dress code and “sausage rolls” seemed extreme, check this one out: One high school graduate won’t see her diploma or her transcript until she attends detention. The reason? She violated the school’s graduation ceremony dress code . . . with her shoes.
According to a report from Jezebel, 17-year-old Rachel, whose mother requested that her last name be withheld, landed in a world of trouble this past Sunday after making the incredibly practical decision to wear a comfortable pair of sneakers to her graduation ceremony at Paul VI Catholic High School in Virginia. According to the teen, who describes herself as “a self-conscious person,” sneakers seemed the safe choice given her inability to walk in heels and a lack of appropriate flats.
“We have our graduation at a college, it’s a big stage. You walk in front of everyone,” Rachel told Jezebel. “So I was like, why not wear something I feel comfortable in?”
Given Paul VI’s already-restrictive dress code, Rachel and her mother also brought along a pair of flats just in case the sneakers didn’t pass inspection. But either because her graduation gown was too long to see the shoes or because the school’s inspectors simply didn’t care, Rachel was allowed to walk the stage and receive her ceremonial diploma.
It wasn’t until after the ceremony when she arrived in the diploma pickup room that she was pulled aside by the school’s principal, vice principal, and another administrator. According to Rachel, the three women laid into her, saying that unless she served a day of detention over the summer (at a school she technically no longer attends!), she wouldn’t receive her diploma. Rachel left the building in tears.
Since then, Paul VI has doubled down on its punishment of the 17-year-old and is now threatening to also withhold her transcript, which will make it difficult for Rachel to register for college classes this fall.
According to Rachel and her mother, this is just the latest in a long trend of gender discrimination at Paul VI. Male students are rarely rebuked for failing to adhere to the school’s policy on tucking in shirts and wearing well-fitted pants, while policies put in place for the school’s young women are enforced unevenly with some administrators constantly on the lookout for female violators and others who could care less. At 5’10”, Rachel says she’s been a frequent target of the dress code policy, receiving detention for wearing skirts that are too short and for wearing pink socks when school policy limits that choice to black or white.
Perhaps it’s not all that surprising that Rachel got in trouble, but given the fact that graduation was supposed to be a happy day for her and that her shoes didn’t harm anyone (except for the administration’s ego), we say give her the diploma!
“This is a kid wearing sneakers,” Rachel’s mother told Jezebel. “Not a kid flipping the audience off. This is a good kid. She graduated fine, she did volunteer work. This is everything you’d want a kid to be. But I guess they just took her sneakers very personally.”
That said, she doesn’t plan on sending her daughter to detention to be berated by school officials again. In her mind, Rachel passed the inspection and that was that.
“I was looking forward to getting my diploma for years,” Rachel told Jezebel. “But I was in the car bawling instead. They ruined that moment for me.” We don’t even know what to say.