The school's flyer said 'no exceptions' to the rules, and some students were barred from graduation

Tanya Aguon and her son. (Photo: Facebook courtesy Tanya Aguon)
Tanya Aguon and her son. (Photo: Facebook courtesy Tanya Aguon)

Graduation dress codes might not seem like a huge deal — after all, most of the outfit is covered by the graduation robe. But apparently some students at Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Ky., who failed to follow the rules didn’t get to walk the stage at their graduation on Friday.

In a Facebook video, mom Tanya Aguon explained that her son didn’t get to cross the stage to accept his high school diploma because he wore jeans and sneakers with his graduation robe. “They won’t let my son walk because he has on jeans and tennis shoes,” Aguon says in the video. The distressed mom also says in the video that her daughter “got in a car wreck” trying to bring a pair of pants to her brother at the ceremony.

“I know that it is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” James McMillin, Principal at Bryan Station High School told Yahoo Lifestyle. “But I also know that my school, my city, my families, my teachers, even my students, they want me to prepare these kids for college and careers. That’s the purpose of high school, is that I get these kids exposed and ready to graduate, college and career-ready. Having rules, having expectations, and having accountability for those rules and expectations, particularly with showing up on time and having dress etiquette, that is something that is college and career ready.”

McMillin explained he is sympathetic to the kids and parents. “We don’t want these things to happen, because we want every single student to be able to experience a high school graduation,” he said. “We’re not out to hurt kids, that’s not why we got into this business to begin with. We want kids to be successful.”

He also explained that money was available to help kids who might not have access to dressy clothes, and that everyone was warned about the “no exceptions” rules at graduation practice the day before.

Aguon’s video also shows several other teens in graduation robes outside the Rupp Arena, where the ceremony was held. She explained in the video that other students weren’t allowed in because they were late to the ceremony. “They’re taking away a moment that these kids can never get back,” Aguon said in the video.

Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle, Aguon said, “I’m not a parent who condones breaking rules. I understand that. But I am a parent who believes in, if a child makes mistakes, not just my child, or not even a child, just anyone, if they make a bad decision, let me not even say a mistake, because it wasn’t a mistake, he knew the dress code. If any person makes a bad decision, and they are willing to stand up and correct it, why not give them that chance?”

As the Lexington Herald Leader reported, Bryan Station High School did release a flyer about graduation warning that students they wouldn’t be able to walk in the ceremony if they didn’t follow the dress code. The flyer makes it clear that denim and jeans, as well as sneakers and flip-flops, weren’t allowed. The flyer also notes that students had to be punctual and there would be “no exceptions” for those who arrived after 12:15 p.m. for the 12:30 p.m. ceremony.

Even though Aguon’s son didn’t get to walk across the stage, it looks like he was still able to celebrate his graduation with his family. The mom shared a photo of herself with her son in his graduation outfit, writing, “The more life throws at us, the more we fight!”

Based on other social media posts, though, it looks like plenty of students did get to walk across the stage — if they were there on time and in proper attire.

The comments about Aguon’s video, which now has 17,000 views, are a mixed bag. Plenty of parents sympathized with Aguon’s distress. Others sided with the school, saying the students should have followed the dress code and arrived on time.

Aguon and some of the other parents will hosting a makeup ceremony later this month for the students who didn’t get to walk, saying, “Our theme is ‘All grads walk.’ Basically, because if someone’s put all these years and all this time towards an education, I don’t think it’s purposely done.”

It’s safe to say that Aguon and her son won’t ever forget Friday’s events, for better or for worse. Whether or not you agree with the school’s decision about the dress code, Aguon’s story is a good reminder of what can happen when students don’t follow their school’s rules. And in the case of something as important as graduation, it might be better to be safe than sorry.

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