Leis are main topic at high school graduation meeting
Parents, students, teachers and community members at Monday’s meeting about Douglas High School graduation had concerns about parking, reserved seating, ceremony length and why the event will be on the side field and not on the new track and field area.
After Principal Marty Swisher told the 100 in attendance that the Sportex turf installers don’t recommend a graduation ceremony with an excess of 4,000 guests taking place on it, the issue causing the most interest was discussed – whether fresh-flower leis would be allowed to be worn by all students during the graduation ceremony.
Davelyn Miyashiro, who called herself the “Lei Lady,” volunteered to make enough so every Douglas student would be able to wear not more than two leis over their gowns.
“A lei is a universal expression of love and we want to share it with the community,” said Miyashiro, who is mother of a 2004 graduate and a future 2009 graduate of Douglas High School. “Hawaiian culture is based on respect – leis are not disruptive.”
The graduation ceremony has become a more dignified affair in just the last few years, according to Randy Green who has been a Douglas High School teacher since 1977.
“It used to be embarrassing – there was no respect,” said Green. “We’ve evolved from a really bad place and we’re trying to rectify it.
“Every student deserves to be recognized. We’re asking your children to basically conform for an hour and 50 minutes.”
Karen Lamb is a first-year teacher who said her Douglas class of 2000 was the class of coconut bras and bathing suits.
“I only wish our ceremony was as dignified,” said Lamb. “If anyone asked me to take off my lei, I would have.
“If this is a freedom of speech issue, where are all the kids telling us if they want to wear leis? I have a pretty diversified English class and when I surveyed them, not one cared.”
Several students expressed the wish to wear leis during graduation. One asked why members of the National Honor Society are allowed to wear medals while band members aren’t allowed to wear leis. Another said she wasn’t going to start wearing a coconut bra during graduation but would like to see leis worn.
“Band students would appreciate some recognition,” said student Andrew Hales. “I don’t see leis disintegrating the honor of the occasion.”
Medals are awarded to valedictorians and salutatorians while pins, stoles and tassels are awards for members of the National Honor Society.
Among the special recognition items currently allowed are medals, pins, sashes for Native American, fine arts, Skills USA, FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America) and athletes.
Swisher said he asked music director Bill Zabelsky about having a band medal but Zabelsky said he acknowledges student achievement during concerts.
“We recognize two students – one vocalist, one instrumentalist – with ribbons,” said Zabelsky. “Besides having the Madrigals sing at graduation, I do all the recognition for my students during concerts.”
Even though leis worn outside the gown were not allowed during 2006 graduation, the discussion continues for this year’s event.
“Graduation is a distinction of honor at Douglas and the purpose of wearing caps and gowns is to unify the graduates,” said Swisher. “It’s not just about you, it’s to honor your community. Graduation is a way to say, ‘Go forward and make us proud.'”
“We’ll honor anything recognized by the school as an achievement and we’re open to discussion,” he said.
After an hour of discussion about leis, there was one question about security staff at graduation.
“We take every precaution to make sure your kids are safe. What happened on Friday is that we got an e-mail that ‘something’s going to happen,'” said Swisher about last week’s hour-long lockdown. “The sheriffs did an incredible job and made sure the campus was safe.
“We still didn’t have a credible threat. We took the precautions and I’m glad we did. Our students are safe.”
— Grad Night: 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. June 14, Ferris Recreation Park
— Graduation practice: 12:45 p.m. June 15, Main gym
— Graduation ceremony: 5:30 p.m. June 15, Douglas field