The Random Yak

Off Kilter in Canada

Filed under: Just Yaks — Random Yak @ 1:41 pm on May 24, 2010

A Canadian teen who wanted to wear a kilt to his High School graduation ceremony found himself a bit off-kilter after the school principal rejected his proposed attire.

Hamish Jacobs’ family emigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1965.  In recognition of his Scottish roots, he planned to borrow an uncle’s kilt and wear the family tartan to his High School graduation.  The apparently polite and obedient Jacobs asked the school Principal’s permission to wear the kilt, but was denied.

According to the linked story, Jacobs had a genuine desire to wear the kilt (which, incidentally, is still appropriate male attire at formal functions in parts of Scotland) to honor his ancestry and upbringing – which, apparently, had a substantial Scottish influence.  His family was proud of the decision.  The school was not.

I can understand a school implementing a dress code for graduation, and forbidding students to wear clothing that would disrupt what should be a solemn and important day.  That said, if the school isn’t requiring a uniform (and if it was, nothing in the article said so) and refused solely because the kilt isn’t pants (which I suspect) then the Principal called this one incorrectly.  If students are permitted to select their own graduation attire, they should be allowed to make choices which (within appropriate bounds) reflect their heritage and their personalities.

Yes, this may require a little more supervision on the part of adults-in-charge, but if the school doesn’t want to take the time, there’s always the good old cap and gown (which I suspect has reached such favor in the United States partly because it does eliminate the dress issue altogether) or a similar uniform requirement.

Don’t even try to tell me that allowing a kilt would “require” the district to grant every special request, either.  This isn’t even close to “allowing boys to wear dresses” for reasons too numerous to mention.  In the end, it boils down to “do you have a legitimate reason to ask to wear this item of clothing, which for the record is accepted male dress in your family’s country of origin” – and in Jacobs’ case, the answer is yes.  I wouldn’t expect the school to forbid a Sikh to leave his turban home or a Muslim girl to uncover her head.  Yes, the difference there is religion, and not just culture or heritage, but if a student wants to memorialize an important day with a reasonably pertinent nod to the parents who got him (or her) to graduation day, I say let them do it.

Besides … he ate haggis, for crying out loud.  The boy deserves some recognition.

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