Florida Legislature would allow teens in military to wear dress uniforms to graduation

The issue arose after the Newsome High School 2018 ceremony.
Pinellas Park High School seniors attend graduation at Tropicana Field on Thursday, May 17, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE   |   Times
Pinellas Park High School seniors attend graduation at Tropicana Field on Thursday, May 17, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times
Published April 30

Future Florida high school graduates who are members of the U.S. Armed Forces will have the right to wear their dress uniforms at their commencement ceremonies, under legislation (SB 292) unanimously supported by the state House and Senate.

The two-page bill came into play because of two Hillsborough County lawmakers, who were upset about a 2018 story from Newsome High in their district.

Senior Emily Olson already had completed basic training, and wanted to wear her dress blues during graduation, to show her accomplishment, as Spectrum News 9 reported at the time.

School officials rejected her request, and said she had to wear the traditional cap and gown that all other classmates would have on.

Sen. Tom Lee, the bill sponsor, said he understood why the school took the position it took, noting any wavering in the rules could open the floodgates to other demands. He argued that the Legislature should clear the path for schools to permit their students in the military to represent the service without repercussions.

The legislation states: “A district school board may not prohibit a student from lawfully wearing the dress uniform of any of the Armed Forces of the United States or of the state at his or her graduation ceremony.”

Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Lithia, sponsored the House version, which ultimately was replaced by the Senate bill. He made a basic introduction of the idea, which generated little debate throughout its several committee and floor stops, at third and final reading Tuesday morning.

The measure passed 115-0, and now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his consideration.

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