School board to consider allowing military uniforms at graduation; could be model policy for nation.
A uniform change item on Wednesday’s Hart District agenda may be the start of a national movement if one Saugus mom has her way.
It started with a request from a member of the class of 2009. Shari Laccabue’s son, Nicholas, had wanted to be a Marine as long as she remembered. Last August, when he started his senior year at Saugus , he made sure to complete all his graduation requirements by Dec. 12.
On Dec. 15, he shipped out to boot camp in San Diego . Last Friday, he graduated and joined the ranks as a Private in the United States Marine Corps.
Before he left in December, Nicholas asked his mom to make sure that he could wear his Marine dress blue uniform when he walked up to get his high school diploma, a request Shari carried to Saugus Principal Bill Bolde.
Bolde’s initial reaction was to turn her down.
Shari , like many military moms, didn’t take that answer lightly. She asked for help, first from support groups comprised of military families, then by contacting school board and government officials, working her way from local politicians, through Sacramento and up to Washington .
Her biggest supporter turned out to be Congressman Buck McKeon, a high-ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, whose assistant intervened by speaking with Bolde. The principal has since reversed his decision and drafted a policy statement for consideration by the William S. Hart District.
Laccabue, his parents and two of his fellow Marines, Max Bernstein and Jaren Manhart, visited the KHTS studio Monday morning after meeting with Bolde, who escorted them around the Saugus campus and posed for pictures with the family.
The air rife with “Yes Sir,” and “Yes Ma’am,” the three servicemen chatted about being home and the adventures they had in training. All credited their drill instructors with changing their way of thinking. Bernstein even noted the difference in Laccabue since they met in December.
“The training, the more mature way he conducted himself, it was very professional, Bernstein said of his fellow Marine. “He really kept his bearing. Thanks to our drill instructors, we have definitely changed. We’ve been given a lot.”
What none of the three knew about was the turmoil going on at home around graduation. They said the two news items their instructors shared were the inauguration of President Barack Obama and the fact that the Arizona Cardinals lost the Super Bowl.
Nothing about principals or Congressman or the media frenzy around who got to wear what at graduation.
“My mom did all the hard work,” Laccabue said. “I give her all the thanks, all the honor.”
His mother intends to take this even further, buoyed by the response she received from the community for Nicholas’ victory.
On the Hart board agenda is a proposed change in graduation policy.
Board members will consider adding the following to its governing rules: “A student who has completed graduation requirements prior to the graduation of his/her class, and in the interim, before the graduation ceremony of said class, has enlisted in the United States military, completed boot camp and is in active service, shall be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony wearing full dress uniform according to the dictates of his or her branch of the military, with the permission of his/her commanding officer.”
Now that it’s being considered on a local level, Shari Laccabue has aimed her sights on Sacramento – and beyond. She hopes that the policy will be accepted nationally so anyone in the military can wear the uniform they have earned.
“Right now, we have Nick, then hopefully the school board, then the state and the nation,” she said.
Nick’s dad, Joe, said it’s all about patriotism.
“The first thing I thought was if this had gone down right after 9/11, they wouldn’t have been given a second thought. And it hurts me to think that people aren’t patriotic all the time,” he said. “It takes a tragedy just to get people to put a patriotic sticker on their car.”