PLAISTOW — Some parents and students are unhappy with Timberlane Regional High School’s recently announced decision to have one cap-and-gown option for seniors at future graduation ceremonies.
Historically, male students wore maroon and female students wore white during the ceremony, but this year the school decided to change that.
“The students are very involved in looking at the different models of gowns,” Timberlane Superintendent Earl Metzler said.
The new gown options are maroon with white accents. Students will vote on four options, one of which will be chosen.
Metzler said the change was made in order to treat all genders fairly and be more inclusive of all gender identities.
But Brianne Cazmay-Biros, the mother of a junior at Timberlane, argues that the school could be more gender inclusive by allowing students to choose between maroon or white, rather than assigning colors to specific genders.
“My daughter is excluded every day,” Cazmay-Biros said. “She is 3 feet 9 inches in a school that is 5 feet tall.”
According to Cazmay-Biros, she was planning to order her daughter a kindergarten-sized white gown for her graduation in 2021. Now that doesn’t appear to be an option because the gowns will be custom designed.
“I am more livid about the designs being added. I can buy a white one, but maroon has so many color variations,” Cazmay-Biros said. “I can do black or white, that's the same color. I can buy one that looks right on her for $25, but now I have to pay hundreds to alter it and make it look right on her.”
Cazmay-Biros started a change.org petition Wednesday called “Keep 2 colors for graduation!” As of Friday, more than 550 signatures had been gathered.
Cazmay-Biros said that she heard complaints from other parents who say their child is unhappy with the change.
She said her daughter sent her photos taken in the school hallways where students hung signs reading, “We Want White 2020.”
“Where does it end? You’re only including a small group,” she said. “Granted, my daughter’s difference is a smaller group, but you are further excluding a smaller group. There is no way my daughter will ever look the same now. They excluded her from the whole student body because she is little. That isn't her fault. She can’t grow.”
Other parents have said the change is not a big deal.
Metzler said the decision was discussed in depth by both staff and student leadership, and that the school wants to hear everyone's opinion.
“The spirit behind this is inclusivity and acceptance. There is nothing more or less to this. I understand that not everyone will be satisfied, but we are just trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” he said.
“Our School District believes that regardless of gender, all students should be treated the same,” he added. “So this is representative of that. I am proud of the work they are doing, and I applaud their efforts.”