Several families at Fraser High School have objected to the decision by the district to change the former graduation gown colors from white for girls and blue for boys to a uniform blue and yellow design.

Several families at Fraser High School have objected to the decision by the district to change the former graduation gown colors from white for girls and blue for boys to a uniform blue and yellow design.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Fraser families clash over cap and gown colors

By: Brendan Losinski | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published March 20, 2024


FRASER — Several families in the Fraser Public Schools district are taking issue with a decision to change the colors of the caps and gowns used by graduating high school seniors.

The decision was made by district administrators to break from the tradition of female students wearing white gowns and male students wearing blue gowns. Instead, the entire student body will wear a blue and yellow gown.

“Sometime around 5-6 weeks ago, my daughter and the rest of the graduating class of 2024 were told that they were all going to be wearing blue gowns,” Mark Hamlin, the parent of a graduating senior, said in an email. “No white for girls, blue for boys, just all blue. I assure you … 99.9% of the female graduates and their parents were shocked and disappointed. It has been the tradition throughout Fraser High School, and most high schools over the decades that girls would wear white gowns.”

Fraser Superintendent Carrie Wozniak defended the decision saying that they are becoming more in line with the norm of other high schools and colleges.

“It’s important to remember that graduation is about unity and in most instances, most graduating classes wear the same color gown,” she said. “I can’t think of one college that has two colors for boys and girls for the gowns. The cap and gown is about class unity, not about it being white so it looks good (over) their dress. It was a decision to go back to our school colors that are blue and yellow. … (Graduation) isn’t about the fashion of the gown, it’s about the effort to get the diploma and the academics.”

Several parents also complained that they had already ordered the previous style of gown and must now reorder the new gown.

“Last fall, Fraser Schools informed us it was time to order the cap and gowns for our 2024 graduates. We did so,” wrote Hamlin. “We have a soon to be 18 year old daughter who is graduating with honors, in June. Between the time we ordered a white gown for our daughter last September up until around the end of January 2024, we assumed that girls would be wearing the white gowns and boys would be wearing the blue gowns.”

Wozniak said that the order forms were still out of date earlier in the school year, but that no one was improperly charged since the orders were corrected and that the students will be getting the uniform blue and gold gowns regardless.

“I was surprised at how many people objected. At the beginning of the school year when the students ordered their gowns, the old order form was still up there. Many thought they were still ordering the white in August of 2023. It doesn’t impact the order, we only needed their size. Some found out that it was the blue and yellow gowns only after the order was corrected.”

Some parents said that the anger over the issue stems from the decision being made without community input and that it wasn’t revealed until it was well into its implementation.

“We were never ever told of this change from September until mid or late January,” wrote Hamlin. “We get emails about everything, but this was kept under the rug. We were never notified of this change and from what I can tell and know, no one wants this change. … For some reason, this was kept from us and the excuses from the Fraser School district are unacceptable.”

“We made the decision in June of 2023. Of the graduating class of 350, it’s only a small group that’s complaining. … I don’t think the decision was rushed. We’ve been talking about this since November and graduation is in June. I think they don’t like the decision,” said Wozniak. “This isn’t something we let students vote on. We don’t let students decorate their hats for graduation, only for the senior walk. We don’t let them add embellishments to their gowns.  ... It isn’t like voting on senior favorites and senior flowers and I think some students and parents are upset that this isn’t something they get to vote on. … This isn’t the first time the district has changed the caps and gowns.”

Wozniak said that there are many among the Fraser Schools community who like the new gowns and that it is just a vocal minority who do not like the changes.

“Our student council talked about it,” she said. “To be honest, there’s a lot of different feelings behind this decision. It’s interesting the things you hear from students. Some don’t like it to be different, some don’t like the yellow, some like the change. … This isn’t something we vote on and we decided it was time to make a decision about that class unity. We thought this was more in line with what you would see at the university level. … I feel like we’re catching up to where others are.”

Hamlin disagreed, saying it is not just a minority of families objecting to the change.

“My daughter protested this decision,” he wrote. “My daughter is a smart kid. She wrote the principal to voice her displeasure, and she told me that she has yet to hear of any female graduate that wants to wear the blue gown. None of her friends want to wear a blue gown. None of her friends know any female graduate who wants to wear a blue gown. … A petition was floated amongst the girls with about 30-40 names on it thus far. Maybe more.”