A high school student and Army recruit in Nebraska wanted to wear a black-and-gold U.S. Army sash over her graduation gown last weekend as she graduated from school.
When she was denied permission, a Facebook post calling the school’s decision “unpatriotic” went viral and got thousands of shares, the Kansas City Star reported on Thursday.
Megan Pohlmeier, 18, told a local TV station she was proud to wear the sash that her recruiter had given to her for her graduation at Hastings Senior High School.
“I’m in the Army, this is what I’m doing, and I’m really proud of what I’m doing, and I feel like [the principal] just took that opportunity away from me,” Pohlmeier said on KHGI-TV.
The principal determined Pohlmeier would not be allowed to wear the sash because it falls outside the rules for what can be worn with gowns and caps at graduation, the Kansas City Star reported.
Pohlmeier said the principal threatened to keep her from getting her diploma if she wore the sash to the graduation ceremony.
“I wasn’t going to wear it in the ceremony, and I was going to respect [the principal’s] decision,” she said in the news report.
She put it on after she left the ceremony, said her mother, Lisa McGinnis Pohlmeier, who posted about it on Facebook.
“She may have been threatened to not receive her diploma if she wore this during graduation, but you can damn sure bet she wore it with pride as soon as she left the gym. You are army strong Megan,” she wrote in her Facebook post.
It was a May 13 post by Shawna Ewoldt, one of the people criticizing the school’s decision, that got more than 6,000 shares as of Friday afternoon.
“The principal informed her that she ‘won’t get her diploma under any circumstances’ if she wears her Army sash. The brave young woman willing to make sacrifices for her country, deserves much better than this!” said the post on Ewoldt’s Facebook page.
In comments criticizing the decision, some pointed to students who were wearing other items over their gowns.
Hastings Public Schools went on Facebook to explain what items are approved for wear to the ceremony, and to try to clear up what it called a “misrepresentation of our graduation.”
The students were wearing cords symbolizing Freshmen Mentoring, hoods representing the National Honor Society and medals for the “Top 10%,” all approved “symbols earned while attending our high school,” the district stated.
“Apparently, these symbols were mistaken as symbols of future institutions of higher education by the person who made the original post,” the district wrote on Facebook. “That conclusion is entirely inaccurate.”
The restriction in Pohlmeier’s case was never intended to show disrespect to the Army, the schools superintendent told the TV station.
“Did we deny a student the ability to wear a sash provided by the Army?” Hastings Public Schools Superintendent Craig Kautz said. “Yes, that’s true, but that wasn’t an attempt to be unpatriotic or disrespectful to our armed forces.”
Kathleen Curthoys is editor of Army Times. She has been an editor at Military Times for 20 years, covering issues that affect service members. She previously worked as an editor and staff writer at newspapers in Columbus, Georgia; Huntsville, Alabama; Bloomington, Indiana; Monterey, California and in Germany.