By Brianna Kudisch/ NJ Advanced Media
A recent New Jersey high school graduate was told by school officials he couldn’t wear his military sash during the ceremony, an action that generated fierce backlash from parents and prompted a draft of new state legislation.
William Borowsky Jr., a 2019 graduate of Point Pleasant Borough High School, was told he couldn’t wear his U.S. Marines military sash over his graduation gown during the ceremony, according to a Facebook post from his dad and borough council member, William Borowsky. If he did, he would be escorted out by police, the post said.
“On a side note, shame on you Boro principal and superintendent for not allowing Billy to wear his sash (something he is extremely proud of) during graduation,” Borowsky wrote on Facebook. “Despite numerous pleas from myself, his recruiter and our mayor, they chose not to allow him to wear the sash.”
The move prompted objections from more than two dozen military parents, veterans, and community members at a Board of Education meeting on June 24, according to The Ocean Star News. The superintendent of Point Pleasant Schools, Vincent Smith, said the “item will be looked at,” when asked if the board would consider drafting a new policy, the article noted.
The item in question is the entry in the school’s student handbook that says “no writing, tape, decorations, etc. will be permitted on graduation gowns or hats,” in reference to appropriate commencement attire.
However, graduating seniors in the National Honor Society are allowed to wear a collar sash. Smith emphasized that the long standing policy against most decorations, which is a school policy, instead of a board policy, is because graduation is not the place for it.
“It’s not a recognition ceremony,” he said “It’s a graduation.” He noted that the school does honor students during the ceremony who are entering the military—they are publicly addressed in the principal’s speech and given a standing ovation.
When pressed as to why National Honor Society students are allowed to display their decorations while others groups are not, Smith said, “It’s just that they’ve earned that right to do that.”
In response to the school’s decision to bar decorations during the graduation ceremony, two assemblymen have drafted legislation that would require schools to allow students to wear their military sashes during the ceremony.
“I can’t believe we have to make a bill for this,” said Assemblyman Ryan E. Peters, one of the co-authors of the legislation. “We should be honoring that service.”
As a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, Peters said this specific instance doesn’t speak for all superintendents and principals, but “there’s always been one or two you have to reign in.”
Peters and Assemblyman Edward H. "Ned' Thomson, the other co-sponsor of the legislation, said they hope to pass the bill soon, but the timing is dependent on the legislative session schedule.
This is not the first instance of students being asked to remove their military sashes at the school. Last year, Dylan Ippolito, a current U.S. Army soldier and member of the 2018 graduating class, was asked to remove his military sash, according to his friend, Melissa Stowe, another 2018 graduate.
“Dylan and I were taking pictures with our former track coach and after we had finished,
Dylan was pulled aside by our Principal Kurt Karcich [and] was told by him that Dylan was not allowed to wear his sash walking out to graduate,” she said. “Despite being obviously upset, Dylan was respectful and took it off per request of [Principal] Karcich.”
She said two other members of her graduating class were also asked to remove their military sashes for the ceremony.
William Borowsky did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and neither did the principal of Point Pleasant Borough High School, Kurt Karcich.