Jacob swelled with pride with his mother and girlfriend beside him on what was supposed to be one of the most significant days of his life. But the principal paused when it was his turn to go up. Picking out Jacob in the crowd, he smugly shot a look at him… And then he moved on to the list’s next name. But when everyone learned why Jacob had been nixed by the principal at his own graduation ceremony, they were outraged.
Jacob Dalton Stanley was a Crown Point High School student from Crown Point, Indiana. He had wanted to serve his country since he was a boy and dreamed of one day becoming a sergeant. He expressed his interest in joining the U.S. The military when he was only 10 years old. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, but no one expected it to come from him.
Pursuing His Dream
Jacob worked on his studies diligently and completed his high school requirements months in advance so that he could pursue his dream. He promptly enlisted in the Marines when he had completed his studies. Right in time to fly back to Indiana to attend his high school graduation ceremony, he finished boot camp. Little did he know, it wouldn’t go exactly the way he imagined it.
A Proud Mother
Shannon, a high school sweetheart of Jacob’s, was waiting for him. She and Kathy, his mother, were ecstatic to have him back home. And his mother couldn’t have been prouder when he showed them his Marine Corps uniform. In just a few months, she was in awe of what her son had accomplished. And he was about to receive his high school diploma as the cherry on top.
A Memorable Day
Kathy, Jacob, and Shannon were all thrilled as they made their way to Jacob’s high school, knowing that Jacob’s hard work had finally paid off. Jacob was excited to be presented in front of his friends and family with his diploma — he had earned it. All his life lay in front of him. Nothing can take this away from him, he thought.
The Students Were Excited
With congratulations and salutes from friends and teachers, Jacob was greeted. When students and their parents flooded the stands in their gowns and caps, the excitement in the air was palpable. But it was the response to what Jacob decided to wear to the ceremony that would push things too far for some.
Calling Out The Names
Crown Point High School’s principal, Chip Pettit, took the stage and tapped his mic. He began his opening speech to a sea of excited young faces by fumbling through his notes. Then, in alphabetical order, he started calling out names. But it wouldn’t take long for both the students and parents to recoil in shock.
Kathy squeezed Jacob’s hand when Mr. Pettit hit the S’s, and beamed up at him. He took a last glance, before it was fine, at the acceptance speech he had written and practiced. Stepping forward, he got ready to step up to the platform. But just as Mr. Pettit had reached the list with his last name, he stopped.
His Name Wasn’t Called
Mr. Pettit’s eyes met him, looking for and pointing out Jacob in the crowd, and he smugly gave him a glance. Then, without reading Jacob’s name, he went on to the next name on the list. For a moment, Jacob’s face fell in shock and the crowd went silent. This was definitely a mistake? Why was it that Jacob’s name was omitted?
He Was Singled Out
Jacob’s face fell. That very afternoon, he realized he had defied the principal, but he had never expected Mr. Pettit to publicly humiliate him like this. He had just been standing up for his rights the way he saw it. Why was it that his school had such a problem with what he wore? And why was he singled out like this?
After his life was put on the line to serve his country, the school decided to treat him like this. Was this right? And what infuriated Kathy the most was that she looked around and found that other students were also breaking the dress code for graduation. And yet, their names were always called out. Did he have a problem with Mr. Pettit’s son?
They Were Outraged
Kathy later said in an interview, “It was a disgrace. There was one student who wore shorts and gym shoes, and another student who wore a red turban symbolizing his religious views.” At the ceremony, Jacob turned up wearing his full blue Marine Corps dress uniform. But, to be honest, there was nothing in the bylaws of Crown Point Community School Corp. that addressed whether at graduation U.S. military uniforms could be worn. Everyone was indignant. But nobody expected the tale of Jacob to hit high places like that.
Leann Tustison, Jacob’s friend, said that the situation was “absolutely ridiculous.” She went on to say “He’s in the military putting his life on the line for us. It’s unacceptable that he was not allowed to walk across the stage.” “The students were outraged,” she added. “There were some students who were going to walk in solidarity with Jake.” However, the backlash didn’t just stop there.
Christal Hernandez heard about the story and took to Facebook by saying: “It amazes me that all through life, people are always telling you to be proud that you’re different, celebrate your uniqueness, yet at one of the most memorable events in your life, an administrator makes the decision to completely destroy your accomplishments. SHAME ON YOU CPHS & CHIP PETTIT!” Yet Mr. Pettit had more to deal with than the community’s ire. Soon, the House Education Committee had also heard the story.
A Letter Was Sent
An angry Facebook user commented by saying, “I sent Mr. Pettit a letter today,” the user added, “I know of people who are pulling all financial support of CPHS and their programs over this. If that were my son, I would have escorted him across the stage.” But what was it that Mr. Pettit said about this? Well, according to Mr. Pettit, Jacob had been warned.
He Was Warned
Mr. Pettit had told him that he would not be allowed to wear his uniform to the ceremony when Jacob participated in his Crown Point High School senior class graduation rehearsal earlier that day. And, to the horror of Jacob, the principal had been true to his word. So, when he arrived in his uniform at his graduation ceremony, his name was knocked off the program. But, in the midst of an enormous amount of reaction, does Mr. Pettit regret that?
While online, Mr. Pettit has earned a lot of hatred, he maintains that he just followed school policy and stands by what he did. Instead, Jacob should have worn a military stole or cord over a gown and been remembered during the graduation ceremony, he claimed. “This tradition is not intended to be disrespectful to students, parents, or our community, but as a source of pride for our students,” Mr. Pettit told NBC Chicago. Regardless of his statement, there was no way of changing the public’s opinions of him.
Adding Salt To The Wound
Another school in the Crown Point area named Hobart High School had a similar case that was also widely reported to add salt to the wound but for a slightly different reason. In the Marine Corps, a graduate named Ana Kritikos had also enlisted and, like Jacob, she had graduated early so she could enlist. And during the graduation ceremonies, she was required to wear her military uniform.
She shared her wish to wear her military uniform to the high school administrators when Ana came back for her graduation ceremony. And, in direct contrast to the story of Jacob, she said she got full support from them. Ana said, “They have been absolutely amazing. It is OK with the Marines for us to wear our uniforms at high school graduation. I know the School Board, the principal, and superintendent talked about it and were in agreement that I could wear my Marine uniform.” With this in mind, why didn’t he just hold his tongue and did the same?
Acknowledging Military Graduates
Peggy Buffington, Hobart High School’s Superintendent, said, unlike Crown Point and their now wildly controversial principal, their school aims to go out of its way to honor military graduates. “We recognize audience members and future military in our graduates by having them stand. It is always a very special and patriotic moment where the audience roars with applause. This year was especially nice because Ana Kritikos graduated midterm and landed just in time for the graduation ceremony.” Peggy shared.
They Were Proud Of Her
Peggy continued to share, “We did recognize her and the achievements she has made in the Marines, already. She is a Private 1st Class Military Occupation Specialist. She is currently serving in Virginia in their specialist class involved with intelligence and started her training in January. We are extremely proud of her accomplishments.” However, the military would not get involved with graduation dress codes, according to a spokesperson for the US Marine Corps. Major Clark Carpenter of the Marine Corps said, “The Marine Corps does not dictate what specific high schoolers can or cannot graduate in,” He continued, “That decision is up to school leadership.” But for long, it might not be up to the school leaders.
The Rules Were Challenged
When he read about Jacob being barred from his own graduation, State Rep. Mike Aylesworth was appalled. And with all the criticism the school was facing, he decided. He added some of his own, too. Mike, a Vietnam-era veteran, said. “What happened I found not appropriate. I just think people who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way should have the option to wear a uniform at graduation.” Sure enough, his comment won more than just support.
Approval Of A New Bill
For a bill mandating that school districts allow students already serving in the military to wear their dress uniform instead of the standard graduation clothing, State Rep. Mike Aylesworth won committee approval. Mike stated, “It’s a hodgepodge of local school board regulations all over the state,” He continued, “I just want to make it consistent all over the state.”
The Right Thing
Mike, said this as he referred to Mr. Pettit and Crown Point High School. “Most school corporations in the state do the right thing and don’t need a law for guidance, but there’s evidently a couple of school corporations that need help,” Mike continued, “We should be encouraging young people who want to put their life on the line for our country to go through graduation and walk up on the stage in their uniform.”
Jacob’s father, Wheeler Stanley, declined to comment on the school incident, but he did say he would support legislation to introduce a uniform standard across the state. He said, “I would support it wholeheartedly.” So, what did Jacob say? Jacob said, “I don’t want the social media controversy that is drawing attention away from the Class of 2017. I also do not want to make any additional statements and wish to put this all behind me so I can start my career in the Marine Corps.”