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Parents, students fight for graduation gowns
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For years it has been a tradition for Turlock eighth graders to wear gowns at their graduation ceremony, but this year students will not be donning the traditional garb and parents are not happy about it.
Over 750 Turlock Unified School District junior high school parents signed a petition opposing the ban on graduation gowns, the time graduation ceremonies will be taking place this year and the lack of notification about the changes in the graduation ceremonies.
“The gowns are part of a long-standing tradition which symbolizes a level of scholastic achievement reached after eight years of hard work,” states a letter to TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto from two parents.
Two concerned parents and one student stood up at Tuesday’s TUSD Board of Trustees meeting to tell the trustees and the superintendent that they want students to wear gowns at their graduation ceremony and they want a say in the decision.
“We have to promote and acknowledge the children for their accomplishments,” said Lucy Perez, parent of seventh grade student. “It is a big year because they are coming out of elementary school. Those wearing gowns are something positive and it gives them something to look forward to for high school graduation.”
The decision to no longer have eighth grade students wear gowns at their graduation ceremony was made last year during budget cuts. The district decided to provide a smaller, low-key ceremony to promote eighth graders  into the high school level.
Changing the graduation ceremony to a promotional ceremony will save the district some money, Da Marto said. The district will be saving money by changing the site of the ceremonies from Joe Debely Stadium at Turlock High School to the individual campuses. The savings primarily comes from the decrease in custodial services. The savings are little, but it is money being saved, Da Marto said. Each site already has chairs and custodial services so there is no additional cost with holding the ceremonies at the school sites, he said.
Da Marto is also hoping that this change will not only save money, but emphasize the importance of high school graduation because that is the graduation everyone works toward accomplishing, he said. He compares the eighth grade promotional ceremony to kindergarten ceremonies, where both ceremonies promote students to the next level.  
“You graduate from your high school at your high school site and you have a ceremony to promote you to the next level in eighth grade at your eighth grade school site,” Da Marto said.
But Turlock Junior High student Rubani Virk feels that most students don’t even graduate from high school with the dropout rates so high, so they will never get to experience a graduation ceremony, she said at Tuesday’s meeting. She said this is why eighth grade graduation is so important.
Along with the change from a graduation ceremony to a promotional ceremony, the events will take place during the day time instead of being held in the late afternoon, as in the past.
Turlock Junior High plans to hold their ceremony from noon and at 3 p.m., with the students split into four different groups, said Dave Kline, Turlock Junior High principal. Their promotional ceremonies are planned for the end of May. Dutcher Middle School plans to hold their ceremony at 2 p.m. on May 27, said Scott Lucas, Dutcher Middle School principal.
“The event takes (place) at an inconvenient time during the time when parents are at work,” said Diane Linan, parent of an eighth grade Dutcher Middle School student. “Parents have to take time off of work or school to attend the eighth grade graduation.”
Each school will not be providing or requiring students to wear caps and gowns. The dress code recommended for students is nice dress clothes or business casual attire.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.