Superintendent releases details about Amite graduation controversy
AMITE - The Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent sent out a letter Monday to clear up the recent incident of a valedictorian denied to walk at graduation because of his facial hair.
Student and valedictorian of Amite High School’s 2016 graduating class, Andrew Jones, was not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony because his facial hair went against school policy.
Superintendent Mark Kolwe sent out a letter giving an explanation following the incident.
Kowle starts off the letter citing the Tangipahoa School Board Student Dress Code Policy that “beards will not be allowed.”
The letter states that Jones, along with every Amite High School senior, was given a document in April with the requirements for graduation participation that included that all students must be clean-shaven for the ceremony.
On May 9, a school administrator reminded Jones of the requirement, while his mother and aunt were on speaker phone.
During graduation practice, the principal of the school noticed some male students who were not clean-shaven and gave them the option to come to graduation without facial hair and be allowed to participate, come to graduation and use shaving cream and razors provided and participate, or refuse to shave and not participate.
Kolwe stated in the letter that Jones was one of four students who arrived at the ceremony unshaven and three of them used the razors provided and shaved. Jones was the only out of the three to refuse, according to Kowle.
Two teachers on separate occasions asked Jones if he was going to shave and he refused both times, according to Kolwe.
Jones told the teachers that he was going to watch the graduation from the spectator seats. After, the principal was notified and asked one of the teachers to get Jones’ robe from him, where he gave it without any comment.
The principal then went into the stands to speak with Jones’ mother about the situation. Jones’ mother asked his father to go speak with their son.
Two other teachers then talked to Jones about the decision not to participate in the ceremony where he replied that he would receive his diploma whether he participated or not.
One of the teachers also questioned Jones about how his mother would react to his decision, but Jones replied that he spoke to her and still refused.
Later, Kowle, along with Walter Daniels, a parish school board member, spoke with Jones and his parents also.
Kowle stated that at the beginning of the ceremony, he told Jones that if he shaved he could still participate, but his dad confirmed his son’s refusal. Jones remained in the stands for the ceremony.
Kowle said that there are consequences for students not complying with policy and this is an unfortunate example of that.
“It is regrettable that any student-particularly an honor student like Andrew-would not get to participate in his high school graduation ceremony, a ceremony that comes along once in the lifetime of every student,” Kowle wrote.
“In this case, however, Andrew made that decision for himself by failing to comply with the reasonable requests made by his parents and school officials that he comply with the rules applicable to all other students.”
To read the full letter click here.