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Crown Point High School graduates take their place in the Star Plaza Theatre for their commencement ceremony on Tuesday in Merrillville.

Young men and women who choose pathways in life including military service should be proud of those decisions.

Volunteering for service in the armed forces is among the most revered acts within our nation's social fabric — and for good reason.

High schools also adopt and follow various policies for equally good reasons.

Some Region high schools allow graduates who have chosen and been initiated into military service to attend commencement ceremonies in their military uniforms.

Others have policies in place requiring all graduates participating in commencement ceremonies to wear traditional caps and gowns.

Many, like Crown Point High School, allow graduates who have since enlisted in the military to wear special cords representing their branches of service on the outside of the gowns.

These rules are neither disrespectful to graduates who are active military members, nor do they disparage the spirit of service.

They're based on the choices and values of school districts, hopefully taking into account concurrent values of the greater community served by the schools.

In the past week, Crown Point High School has experienced a barrage of criticism from some folks who believe it disrespected recent graduate and U.S. Marine Jacob Dalton Stanley. Stanley has declined to discuss the matter.

In the end, school officials were merely following policy when Stanley was told he would have to wear a traditional cap and gown — with an optional special cord signifying his service — if he wanted to participate in the commencement ceremony Tuesday.

School officials said Stanley had requested to wear his Marine dress blues instead of the traditional cap and gown.

Stanley arrived at Tuesday's commencement ceremonies in his military uniform, despite being told previously about the policy, school officials told us last week.

After close to an hour of discussions with Crown Point Principal Chip Pettit just prior to the ceremony, Stanley opted not to participate in the ceremonies if he couldn't wear his military uniform, school officials said.

He did this in a mature way, voicing respect for the school’s decision, and was not escorted from the commencement ceremony site as some accounts have indicated, school officials say.

The firestorm of criticism Crown Point schools have faced since then, some calling the district unpatriotic, is off the mark.

Military agencies don't involve themselves in advocating for or against members of their branches being allowed to wear uniforms during high school graduations.

That's for good reason.

It would be like a public school superintendent telling the Marines how to run a boot camp graduation on Parris Island.

We all should feel deep pride in Region youth who dedicate themselves to selfless military service. Stanley should be commended for making this choice and completing boot camp.

However, Crown Point schools also should be commended for having a system in place — via special ceremonial cords — allowing students like Stanley to stand out for their accomplishments during graduation.

We also understand why some members of the community feel so passionately that Stanley should have been allowed to wear his uniform at the high school's commencement.

The Crown Point Community School Corp. is expressing a willingness to change its future commencement policies to match community concerns.

Upcoming graduating classes should get a voice in the matter as well.

But in the recent case, the school district was simply following its policy and traditions — general tenets also very important to military service and its many ceremonies and formalities.

Instead of allowing the debate to spiral into a viral maelstrom of accusations, critics of the policy should petition for an audience with school officials to discuss future change.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.