Cap decorating sparks conversation

Seniors officially allowed to decorate graduation caps, all students rep black robes


Photo courtesy of Ashley Lazar

Ashley Lazar’s graduation cap with a quote from Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

By Sarah Levy, Oak Park High School

The graduating class of 2019 will begin a new Oak Park tradition: all students will dress in black robes and will be permitted to decorate their graduation caps.

The district decided upon this change in attire in an attempt to be sensitive and accepting of all gender issues and not identify students’ genders based on what color gown they wear.

As for graduation caps, for many years there have been rules in place prohibiting students from personalizing their caps. Over the years, however, the administration has become more lenient toward decorations.

Principal Kevin Buchanan explained that having attended other schools’ graduation ceremonies, he has witnessed the no-decorations rule being strictly enforced.

“I’ve seen other schools take kids’ caps away from them at graduation and give them another, blank cap after the kid has bedazzled it or scrapbooked the heck out of it or have been given a cap decoration from the college that they visited,” Buchanan said.

This is the first year that the administration officially removed the section of senior paperwork addressing whether or not cap decorations are allowed.

Allowing students to personalize their caps has become a controversial issue, Buchanan explained.

“The cap decorations are another way that students can be made to feel less than. I don’t know if the kids who are going to Moorpark are decorating their caps. But I know the kids who are going to [a university] are, right?” Buchanan said.

Because of this, Buchanan is considering re-implementing the “no decorations” rule. He plans on discussing the issue with the associated student body and site council.

“We’re paying attention to this in a way that it doesn’t create situations where we end up defining kids by what is or is not on their cap,” Buchanan said.

Oak Park 2018 graduate and Moorpark College student Ashley Lazar supports grad cap decorating.

“Everyone is in a sort of uniform as they graduate in the cap and gown, and decorating the cap is a really nice way to show some individuality,” Lazar wrote to the Talon. “It’s also really fun to see what your friends are doing and compare decorations.”

Lazar decorated her cap with a rhinestone border and glued a cutout of Meryl Streep from “The Devil Wears Prada.” She also included the quote “That’s all.”

“When I did it, it was just a very fun experience that I think made graduating a little more exciting. I’m a huge fan of Meryl so I couldn’t have thought of a better way to go,” Lazar wrote.

Ashley Pernin, current Junior Class Vice President, said this issue is important.

“I know for the senior rally when we make posters for all the seniors we also make a gap year poster and a Moorpark poster. They all hold the same value and are made with the same love,” Pernin said. “Everyone gets represented and I think it’s the same with the caps.”

For this year’s graduation, the class of 2019 students face some restrictions: caps will have to be tasteful and 2-D to a degree.

For following years, the administration is going to reevaluate the issue. The goal is to not make any students feel poorly about their future academic decisions.

“We are looking at it to determine whether or not it’s somehow marginalizing the discrepancy amongst where our kids go to school,” Buchanan said.

This story was originally published on The Oak Park Talon on May 13, 2019.