A Nebraska high school has received major backlash on social media after denying a graduating senior’s request to wear her U.S. Army sash during the graduation ceremony.
Megan Pohlmeier was planning on participating in her high school’s graduation ceremony in May. To celebrate the occasion, the teen said she wanted to wear her Army sash, which was given to her by her recruiter at the Grand Island office in Nebraska, Omaha World-Herald reported.
Pohlmeier told the World-Herald she called the school to see if she could wear the black and yellow sash during the ceremony.
“It was something I worked really hard to earn. They told me ‘no’ and did not really give me a reason,” she said to the media outlet.
Pohlmeier’s father also tried calling the school, but Principal Thomas Szlanda told him the same thing.
Despite being told no, Pohlmeier decided to wear her sash tucked under her graduation gown so she could take pictures with it after the ceremony.
However, Principal Szlanda saw the sash peeking out under the black gown and pulled her out of line, she said.
“He pulled me out of line and said, ‘I talked to you and your father and you are not to be wearing that. If I see you wearing that again, you will not receive your diploma,’” she said.
In a statement to the World-Herald, Hastings Public Schools Superintendent Craig Kautz said he believed the student was told she could not wear her sash visibly for the ceremony, but should have been allowed to tuck it into her gown.
“But at the time, we were trying to get around 250 graduates lined up alphabetically and have the graduation start at exactly 2 p.m.,” Kautz said to the World-Herald. “At a certain point, I think, in all of the discussion that occurred, the principal was just saying, ‘Get the sash off and get in the graduation line or don’t go through the graduation ceremony.’”
Kautz also told the publication that Pohlmeier could have appealed the principal’s decision to him and the school board, but did not.
Pohlmeier did graduate with her diploma, as Kautz points out.
“She earned her diploma, so we are not going to deny her that,” Kautz said. “The only thing we would deny her is the ability to go through the graduation ceremony. Our graduation ceremony, as it states in our (student) handbook, is voluntarily. It is not something that is mandated to get the diploma.”
However, those on social media are calling the situation “unacceptable” and “disrespectful.” One person called out the school on Facebook, writing, “What a horrible way to treat a strong hero!!”
In a post, a woman claimed the school allowed other students to wear school sashes, but did not let Pohlmeier wear her Army sash. A claim the school has denied, stating on Facebook that no students are allowed to wear accessories outside of their gowns with the exception of chords or sashes reflecting scholastic success.
“We are sorry (this) has generated the perception that we are not patriotic,” the district stated in the post. “This could not be further from the truth. Our mission, in part, is to develop responsible citizens. We can not think of a more responsible citizen than the ones who select to or are chosen to serve the United States of America.”
Pohlmeier told World-Herald that she would like a direct apology from the school for the situation.
“It just should have been handled better,” she said.
Hastings Senior High School and Megan Pohlmeier did not immediately respond to requests for comment.