Senior ousted from graduation ceremony

Principal ejects student for wearing journalism honor cord under gown

KANSAS -- Completing course work may not be enough to attend graduation ceremonies at Schlagle High School in Kansas City.

Mary Colston was ejected from her graduation ceremony in May after a dispute with administrators over an honor cord she was wearing that signified her membership in Quill and Scroll, the national honor society for student journalists.

Colston said school officials told her she could not wear the cord because only students who were members of the National Honor Society are allowed to wear their cords. Colston said Schlagle principal Doug Bolden told her it was tradition. Colston said she does not believe him.

"I got letters sent to me from parents of previous graduates that said, 'Hey, I have a picture of my son or daughter wearing that award at graduation shaking [Bolden's] hand,'" Colston said. "So you know that's not true."

Bolden did not return calls made to his office by the Report.

Colston said she was told by an assistant principal, before graduation, that she could not wear the honor cord. She said she took her grandfather's advice and wore it under her gown. That way, "I would know it was there" and "I wouldn't be breaking any rules," she said.

Even though the cord was not visible, Bolden made her take it off and give it to her mother after he learned she was wearing it under her gown. Colston said when she got back to her seat-approximately 10 minutes before the ceremony began-security guards escorted her out of the building.

"I worked really hard throughout high school for that," Colston said. "My family was just really really proud of what I had done. I worked so hard for it, and I just couldn't believe that it had been taken away so easily."

School district superintendent Ray Daniels said in a statement that the honor cord policy will be reviewed before next year's ceremony to make sure "all students are honored for their academic accomplishments."

Colston, who said she wanted to be a writer since she was four years old, plans to attend a community college in the fall.

Colston's membership in Quill and Scroll is based on both academic and journalistic achievement.

Although Bolden threatened to withhold Colston's diploma for a year, a district representative delivered it to her the following day.

Fall 2000, reports