South St. Paul students want identity at their commencement

What is it that gives us our identities?

For a group of South St. Paul Secondary students, it’s sashes at commencement, and last night they asked the school board to let them show their colors denoting their identities, their ethnic pride, and the challenges they’ve met in order to graduate, the Star Tribune reports.

They say it marks the particular obstacles they’ve had to overcome in order to graduate and should be part of the celebration.

But, at least for now, it’s against the rules.

Two students last year wore sashes in Honduran colors, until officials told the kids to take them off.

“There’s a war going on in their country and they managed the accomplishment of graduating from high school,” math teacher Jessica Davis said “I’m so sad that one of their memories is wiping the tears away.”

Students who want to wear particular sashes to denote their affiliations proposed a change to the rules in January, but school officials said “no,” and now say it’ll take months to study the idea. That’s too long for students who are graduating this year.

“The information I have said that it goes against tradition. Well, tradition is an ongoing thing, correct?” he said. “It gives these kids some identity,” school board member Bill Arend said.

And it’s not as if the idea is without precedent. Students in certain programs get to wear colors now.

“This is a relatively new thing, and I give the kids credit,” Arend said. “If we’re here for the kids and the kids are saying, ‘This is what I want,’ why are we resisting?”

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