California may become the first state in the nation to allow active military troops to graduate wearing the uniforms of their service branch instead of the traditional cap and gown.
If legislation proposed by Assemblyman Cameron Smyth is approved Wednesday, students who complete their high school curriculum requirements early and complete military basic training before their graduation date will be given the choice of wearing either their uniforms or cap and gown.
It’s a cause that started in Saugus with a simple request that grew into a groundswell of support for young patriots.
In December 2008, Saugus High senior Nicholas Laccabue finished his coursework to graduate early. Three days later, he was in Marine Corps boot camp, which he completed in March. Before he left, however, he asked his mother, Shari, to ask Saugus principal Bill Bolde if he could wear his Marine dress blues when he collected his diploma in June.
Shari took the request to Bolde, but was turned down. Not easily deterred, Shari contacted her local representatives, including Congressman Buck McKeon and Smyth in Sacramento. She garnered their support and after a story appeared on hometownstation.com, the Hart District governing board met and passed a policy allowing students the right to choose their own graduation attire if they were active military. Read the original story here .
The overwhelming response to the young Marine’s request prompted his mother to try and help other students and families facing the same dilemma. She met with Smyth, who introduced legislation in February to codify the choice preserved by the Hart board.
On Wednesday, AB 1463 goes up for a vote at the Assembly’s Committee for Education. If passed, it would add Section 51413 to the Education Code.
“A high school pupil who has fulfilled all of the requirements to receive a diploma of graduation from high school pursuant to this code and has completed the basic training required for any armed branch of the United States military shall have the right to wear the dress uniform issued to him or her by that military branch while participating in the graduation ceremony for his or her high school.”
“After hearing of the case down in the district, when the request was initially denied, the Assemblyman wanted other students to have something in a statute to rely on,” explained Sean Hoffman, spokesperson for Smyth. “This is obviously something that will apply to a small number of students on active duty by graduation. These students are making a huge commitment and this is a small way to show gratitude for their service.”
Hoffman said that while some school districts have rules to allow this procedure, he is not aware of any other state that has codified the students’ right to wear a military uniform at graduation.