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School Withholds Diploma from Girl Who Wore Sneakers to Graduation

The Short of It

A female student at a Catholic high school in Virginia was denied her diploma because she wore black sneakers to her graduation ceremony.

The Lowdown

The graduating 17-year-old, Rachel, says Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Va., sent out an email mandating a strict dress code for graduation: No "casual shoes," no sandals, and skirts or dresses for the women, plus close-cropped hair for the men.

Rachel chose to wear brand-new black sneakers (similar to the ones pictured here) because she was worried she might fall if she wore high heels or get blisters in the poor quality flats she owns. Plus, she rationalized that no one would really care or notice because the long graduation robes mostly cover the feet.

Her mother also packed a pair of flats: "I told her, 'If they give you any guff, just come change,'" she told Jezebel. Rachel passed a visual inspection in the graduation line before the ceremony began, and she was handed a fake, ceremonial diploma on stage like all her classmates.

When Rachel, who graduated with honors and has been accepted to college, went backstage to get the official diploma, however, the principal, assistant principal and a third administrator she didn't recognize pulled her out of line, she says. They told her she was not getting her diploma because she wore black sneakers to the ceremony.

Rachel explained that she passed "inspection" and begged for her diploma, but they refused. She ran outside crying, so her mother went inside to demand the diploma, pointing out that they'd had nearly an hour before the ceremony to ask her to change.

Rachel and her mother say they have been told she won't get her diploma or her transcript until she completes a day of detention over the summer.

The Upshot

This story has me seething! Schools are going nuts these days, punishing kids and their parents for the most ridiculous things. Who cares?! I understand schools have rules and need to enforce them to avoid complete anarchy among students, but this was high school graduation day, literally the last time a student and a school have to interact. The Catholic school making such a big deal out of something so small just seems like a petty and unnecessary power play.

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