AUGUSTA — Students marching in Cony High School’s graduation on Sunday will be allowed to wear military sashes over their gowns, following a vote Saturday by the school board to reverse the school’s previous protocol.

The school’s dress code had not allowed students to wear adornments such as sashes, cords and pins from organizations not affiliated with the school during commence ceremonies.

Members of the Augusta Board of Education added the item to the agenda of Saturday’s special meeting, which had been scheduled for a budget discussion, after getting feedback about the school’s refusal to give graduating senior Tyler Bridgham permission to wear an Army National Guard sash.

The board voted to make an exception for military adornments, and it plans to address the issue further before next year’s graduation, according to Kim Silsby, interim principal of Cony.

Graduating Guard members are given a sash to wear over their gowns, but it’s the school’s call about whether to allow the students to wear them, according to Peter Rogers, spokesman for the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.

Silsby said the school had adopted its rule to treat all outside organizations consistently and to continue its traditions during the ceremony.


“For me, if the community decides they want to do something different, I’ll adhere to the wishes of the community,” she said. “I expressed my concern that we are being fair and open to all people.”

School board member Amanda Bartlett said she and fellow board member Larry Ringrose discussed the issue before Saturday’s meeting and suggested adding it to the agenda.

Bartlett said the administration’s concern was that it could be a slippery slope to allow adornments from only some groups, but she thought the military isn’t the same as other organizations.

“There’s a different level of honor that comes with committing yourself to serve your country and possibly sacrificing your life for that,” Bartlett said.

She said she received an email from Bridgham’s mother and saw a story about Bridgham in the Kennebec Journal.

“For some of us who haven’t been in the military or in a military family,” Bartlett said, “I don’t think we recognize or fully appreciate the sacrifices those people make, for sure.”


Jennifer Bridgham, Tyler’s mother, said she was happy with the board’s decision Saturday.

“I’m pretty sure (the newspaper article) had touched a lot of people,” she said.

Silsby said she expects the board will revisit the issue with public input to find out whether the members want to change the practice for future graduations.

“It’s never been against the military,” she said. “I’m very excited about the future of all our students. … It’s more just what we’ve done in the past and adhering to that.”

Staff writer Keith Edwards contributed to his report.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected].com


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