SHS graduation dress code criticized

Published 9:15 am Friday, June 15, 2018

The mother of a special education student at Southampton High School, who will graduate with honors on Saturday, criticized the school’s dress code requirements for graduation during citizens’ time at the Southampton County School Board meeting on Monday.

Audra Anderson of Boykins, whose 19-year-old son Heath Nielsen has Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild type of autism, said that the school’s prohibition of jeans, shorts or T-shirts for the guests of graduates creates a hardship for her son and his extended family.

“Heath, as many of you know, is a special needs graduate, graduating with honors when nobody in the beginning of his life thought he would. This took sacrifice on all our parts like not working outside the home, being more available for melt-down emergencies, conferences and IEP meetings, all of which leads to financial restraints for all of Health’s family members to support him.”

She also said the school’s notice of the dress code, which was sent to parents six days prior to the school board meeting, was insufficient time for her son’s relatives to meet this requirement.

“Because of the short notice many traveling guests are not prepared nor able to prepare for the guest dress code required for this graduation, as they have spent their funds on just getting here,” Anderson said. “Heath has been extremely distressed since realizing his family may not be able to attend. Those family members struggling with this issue are best able to wear cargo pants with nice tennis shoes or a standard blue jean without stains, tears or holes, also paired with nice tennis shoes and a button-down shirt or polo-style shirt.”

Southampton High School’s letter to students and parents informing them of the dress code for guests states that collared or button-down shirts with dress slacks or khakis will be acceptable attire for anyone, and that those wearing jeans, shorts or T-shirts will be denied access.

For the graduates themselves, the dress code mandates that males wear dark neckties, white dress shirts, dark dress trousers and dark dress shoes. For females, white dresses are to be worn under the graduation gown with low heel shoes. Shoes are to have a back and dangling earrings are prohibited.

Such proper dress goes a long way to making the event a dignified and memorable one.

“We love to have a really terrific family affair,” SHS Principal Allene Atkinson said about the ceremony. “It’ll be spectacular.”

If told ahead of time, she added, “We try very hard to accommodate those guests with handicaps.”

Atkinson reminded attendees that the doors will open at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and will be locked promptly at 10 a.m., and reopen at noon.

Because not everyone will be able to fit inside the gymnasium where the ceremony will occur, there will be a screen and live feed for guests seated in the auditorium.

The principal said that will actually give many a better view than if they were in the other space.

Southampton is not alone in requiring a dress code for guests. Franklin High School also mandates that guests at graduation wear proper attire. Its graduation tickets state that guests waring shorts, T-shirts, sweat suits, jeans, denim slacks, overalls, etc., will not be permitted to enter. Gentlemen are required to wear a collared shirt, and ties are preferred. Ladies may be denied entrance if they are wearing excessively low-cut shirts or excessively short skirts. FHS Principal Travis Felts said that these requirements are strictly enforced.