Parents Kicked Out of Kids' Graduation for Not Dressing Up

graduation dress codeYou expect there to be a dress code for a high school graduation. A dress code for the kids, that is. But some high schools are starting to enforce a dress code for parents. They're even telling parents they can't watch their own kids' commencement exercises because they didn't follow the rules!

Can you believe it? How dare a school deny proud parents the right to be there for their kids?!


That's what happened in Charles City County, Virginia, the other day. Parents were turned away at the door because they showed up to their kids' graduation ceremonies in jeans and sneakers. They were told they'd have to watch their kids accept their diplomas on a screen in a separate auditorium, but they couldn't go into the actual graduation.

The parents are outraged that they were kicked out.

But I say good on the school.

One of the things I love best about my job as a reporter for a small town newspaper is the chance to cover high school graduation ceremonies every June. My kid is still a ways away from "Pomp and Circumstance" (although, sadly, the gap closes every year), but on graduation day, I can't help but get caught up in the emotion: everyone is celebrating those kids' accomplishments. Everyone, that is, except the ragamuffins who walk in the door in clothes that appear to have been pulled from the "I wore this to paint my guest room last week, then rolled in a mud" pile.

I've seen it all over the years. Holey t-shirts. Stained undershirts. Booty shorts. Hooker heels. Things most of us wouldn't wear outside of the house, never mind to an important school function (well, the hooker heels might be OK ... at a nightclub).

Every time I see it, I waffle back and forth between sadness and embarrassment. Sadness that they didn't find it in them to at least throw on a clean pair of jeans for what may well be the biggest day of their child's life. Embarrassment for their kid, who has to look at Mom or Dad looking like a schlub next to his buddy's parents who are dressed to the nines. The message he's being sent is clear: "Sorry Kid, but we just didn't feel like you were that important."

I don't expect parents to go beyond what they can afford. You don't have to go rent a tux for your kid's graduation, people.

But your kid worked hard! They deserve a little recognition for that, a little respect. The least you can do is find a clean shirt and cover your behind.

Would you follow a dress code for your kid's graduation or are schools overreaching when they dictate what parents can and can't wear?


Image by Jeanne Sager

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