Editorial: Let FUSD Seniors Decorate Their Graduation Caps.


Photo provided by Riya Kataria.

A decorated graduation cap from an Irvington Class of 2020 senior.

For seniors across the country, graduation time is quickly approaching. Soon, the Class of 2021 will walk across the stage in one final shared experience with their peers, receiving a diploma to mark the ending of high school. At its core, graduation is meant to celebrate a group of unique individuals, each with their own accomplishments, struggles, and dreams nurtured throughout years of learning. However, current FUSD restrictions banning the decoration of graduation caps run counterintuitive to this spirit of graduation. This year, on the basis of antiquated traditions, many graduates will be forced to conceal their individuality and don blank graduation caps while privileged peers wear other markers of accomplishments, preventing everyone from fully expressing themselves at their rite of passage into adulthood.

FUSD explained that a restriction on decorating graduation caps was needed to ensure “unity and cohesiveness” during the graduation ceremony. Students are to look identical, with no one student taking the spotlight away from another. This reasoning, however, does not hold up upon closer examination. FUSD has given the OK for seniors to use stoles, cords, leis, and other decorations with no restrictions at all. These decorations undoubtedly conflict with the doctrine of unity FUSD would like to hold all graduates to, and would similarly draw attention to a person in the same way that decorated caps supposedly do. 

On top of their faulty reasoning, FUSD’s restrictions disproportionately impacts students who may not have access to stoles, cords, and leis. Stoles (and other decorations) are often sold through established clubs and student organizations, and can cost upwards of $35. For a student unable to afford a one-time-use accessory, customizing a graduation cap seems much more attractive, requiring only art supplies and some creativity to accomplish. By allowing for the use of stoles but restricting the decoration of caps, FUSD sends the harmful message to seniors that they have to pay to showcase their high school accomplishments, leaving many disadvantaged students behind. Simply allowing students to decorate their caps would alleviate this inequity, allowing all students to be able to highlight what they have achieved during high school.

Currently, the only dress code provided for graduation is to wear “semi-formal attire under gowns” as well as the restriction on decorating caps. While there are valid concerns that students may draw attention to themselves if profane content is included on graduation caps, these concerns also apply to other pieces of clothing worn by graduates. The district has not provided any guidance as to what is acceptable or not in regards to shirts or other decorations, and a senior could easily wear a tasteless shirt or stole to distract from other graduates. Either way, the district can simply take away any offending caps, stoles, or clothing before the graduation ceremony begins if they believe obscene content is present, and there is no reason for FUSD to be restricting the decoration of graduation caps if this is a concern.

Decorating graduation caps is more than just showing others where you’ll be going post-high school. It is a statement, a showcase of one’s creativity, a portrait of a person’s background and culture. At the one time this class will see each other in person, we should be celebrating all the unique characteristics that make up the diverse Class of 2021, letting each and every senior display their personality and individuality.

The Editorial Board of the IHS Voice is calling on the Fremont Unified School District to release guidance to the Class of 2021 allowing for the decoration of graduation caps and clarify what attire is and is not allowed for graduation. Furthermore, we ask that the policy remain permanent for future senior classes to come. While this may break past tradition, it is the least the district can do for a class of seniors that has suffered so much during the COVID-19 pandemic.

FUSD, do your part. It is a simple ask—let seniors decorate their caps.