The Total Child

EQUITY SERIES: PGCPS' Policy on Gender Neutral Graduation Caps and Gowns

(National Awareness, Equity Series) Permanent link

In May 2016, The U.S Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance to help provide information that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination. Read more from AASA’s Policy and Advocacy Blog, The Leading Edge. Learn more about the Title IX Guidance during an AASA webinar featuring legal expert Maree Sneed. 

As graduation season begins, this guidance is especially useful as the color of graduation caps and gowns is often used to indicate genders. In Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS), the school district implemented a new protocol this year for gender neutral graduation caps and gowns for high school students with all students now wearing the same color. Dr. Kevin Maxwell, Chief Executive Officer of PGCPS wrote the following guest post on this topic. 

Guest Post by Dr. Kevin Maxwell, Chief Executive Officer of Prince George's County Public Schools (Md.)  

 bloggradrobes2014 Bloggradrobes2016  

Graduation Ceremony at Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Prince George’s County Public School.
(from L-R, the 2014 graduation ceremony where men wore green and women wore silver; the 2016 graduation ceremony where all students wore green.)

 Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) recently adopted a new protocol on gender neutral graduation caps and gowns for students. This all began two years ago when the district received requests from students who wanted permission to wear the other genders cap and gown color. Principals said “no.” There was concern about potential liability, the district wanted to be nondiscriminatory. Therefore, we decided to follow suit behind colleges and universities and have students wear one color. Associate Superintendent Dr. Sito Narcisse encouraged members of my team to meet with the high school principals.

We informed principals of our decision for students to wear gender neutral graduation caps and gowns moving forward. We also received a few inquiries from the public, mostly because graduation pictures were taken before the decision was announced at the beginning of the school year. A few people complained about the graduation pictures being a different color than the gown in which they will cross the stage. However, it’s important to note that this comports with the Maryland State Department of Education guidelines for providing safe spaces for transgender and gender non-conforming youth.

It has always been the policy of Prince George's County Public Schools to oppose and prohibit, without qualification, unlawful discrimination and harassment based on race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, marital status, sexual orientation or disability. As a proactive measure, we provided training to principals. We are also putting together a focus group to address the matter and allowing students.