Old Town High School graduates will all wear green gowns with white stoles for the first time this spring, moving away from the traditional gender-based system of women wearing white gowns and men wearing green.
Some students and administrators said they hope having everyone wear the same color will be more inclusive for nonbinary, gender-fluid and transgender graduates.
The Regional School Unit 34 board voted 7-1 Wednesday to make the monochromatic move after two small groups of students presented to the board. One group proposed having all students wear green gowns while the other advocated for keeping the two colors and letting students choose which color they want to wear.
Board member Dave Wollstadt said the board felt having all students in identical gowns saved nonbinary and transgender students from “declaring their gender by picking a certain color graduation gown.”
“The way to ensure they weren’t forced to make that choice openly was to have everyone wear the same color gown,” Wollstadt said.
Nearby high schools including Bangor, Orono, John Bapst and Hampden Academy already require all students to wear the same color graduation gowns.
Old Town High School Principal Scott Gordon said the idea to have all students wear one color has come up several times in the past decade, but never gained traction. The latest effort to make the switch began last spring.
Senior Jayda Roy was part of the group that asked the board to keep the traditional green and white gowns and let students choose a color regardless of gender. Roy said she was “disappointed” with the board’s decision and “felt like I was getting something taken away from me.”
“We’ve had so much taken away from us because of COVID, and this is just another thing that’s getting taken away from us,” Roy said. “We’re all upset about it.”
Gordon said he knew retreating from tradition would likely be difficult for some students and parents.
“There’s a great deal of tradition in our school and our community,” he said.
Gordon’s parting words to students involved in Wednesday’s discussion was not to let the decision darken an otherwise celebratory season for seniors.
“To have a black cloud over our heads to disagree about the color of the gown is going to seem, somewhere down the road, really silly if we allow it to ruin everything,” Gordon said. “You’ll remember the relationships. The memories with your friends at school are a lot more important than the gown color you wear when you march down the aisle.”