Out with the gold, in with the new

Administrators implement all-black graduation robes


Caitlin Fowler/Talon

Students graduate Oak Park high school in 2016.

The Class of 2019 will see a major change at their graduation: uniform black robes for all genders. The black robes will replace the goldenrod robes worn by girls in previous years.

This decision stemmed from the Oak Park Unified School District’s recent dress code policy change, which attempts to approach clothing from a gender-neutral perspective.

“The graduation gowns are just another step in the direction where we are not trying to create school policies where students have to wear clothes that distinguish them by gender,” Superintendent Tony Knight said.

While administrators have just begun to take action, the issue of graduation robes was brought to the forefront last school year. Last year, graduating senior Maddy Quan created a change.org petition to change the girls’ goldenrod robes to black ones. The petition has since gained over 300 signatures and outside attention.

“Mustard is not a flattering color for anyone and I just decided at that very moment that I should start a petition to let the girls wear black robes,” former Oak Park student Maddy Quon wrote. “I honestly did not expect for the graduation robe color to change at any time, and definitely not the year after.”

Although the petition created buzz among the students, neither Principal Kevin Buchanan nor Knight saw the petition.

“I think the petition probably put [the issue of graduation robes] on our radar,” Buchanan said. “I never saw the petition but I heard about it.”

The new robes will not have a financial impact on the school because the gown supplier has agreed to change the colors of the rented gowns for no extra charge. In addition to a change in color, the new robes will also have a few new design elements.

“The cords and stoles will be able to be easily seen,” said Buchanan. “There were some concerns that you couldn’t see the gold cords and the gold stoles on the other gowns.”

It seems that Oak Park may be one of the last schools in Ventura County to transition to unicolor graduation robes.

Principals from local high schools shared their thoughts on the importance of having single-color robes for graduation.

“We have one color for our robes, which is blue,” Westlake High School Principal Jason Branham wrote to the Talon. “I appreciate our use of one color as this represents unity in the senior class as they are all one graduating class.”

“Many of the students in the graduating class have been together for years through elementary, middle, and high school. They have supported each other through all of their challenges and accomplishments,” Stephanie McClay, Principal of Agoura High School, wrote to the Talon. “Having all of our students wear the same color identifies our graduating class as a group of students who have worked together to accomplish their goals.”

Vice Principal of Agoura High School Mary Hazlett also wrote that a single-colored graduation robe “eliminates the unnecessary categorization for students based on sex” and “reflects the experience many will have in college of a unified color.”

“At Santa Susana High School, all of our graduation robes are black and everyone wears a teal stole,” Jerry Block, Principal of Santa Susana High School, wrote to the Talon. “We believe that as one graduating class, there should be a unified appearance.”

Many of Quon’s fellow graduates share her opinion on the change, but feel that the event of graduation took precedence over robe color.

“I wasn’t a huge fan of the color, but I think I was so excited about graduating that I didn’t pay much attention to it,” recent Oak Park graduate Sumedha Attanti said. “The equalization of color allows for parents and students to focus on the fact that kids are graduating, which is the important part.”

Schools may change their graduation robe colors to reflect unity as well as gender equality. However, many schools, such as New Rochelle High School in New York, have received backlash for promoting equality over the students’ ability to choose what colors to wear.

While the change is being welcomed by many students, some believe that students should be able to choose what color they want to wear at graduation.

“I think it’s quite unnecessary. Personally, I like the goldenrod robes better than the black ones,” junior Anushka Sengupta said. “I think it should be up to the students to decide. [Robe color] should not determine gender equality or unity. These two things should be present regardless of robe color.”

According to Buchanan, students will still be able to decorate their caps this year, as long as the decorations are “appropriate and tasteful.” He also said the school would be removing an old policy that prohibited the decoration of graduation caps.

Quon, now a freshman at the University of Mississippi, was happy to hear the news on the recent change.

“I was ecstatic. I don’t think words could really describe how happy I was to hear that,” Quon wrote to the Talon. “I mean, I probably wasn’t the reason it happened, but I can’t help but feel like I at least got the ball rolling with the petition.”