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United Colors of RPS: Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Seeks Gender-Neutral Cap & Gown Policy

In a show of support for LGBTQ youth, Superintendent Jason Kamras publicly states his support for ending gender-specific cap & gown colors.

Jo Rozycki | July 5, 2018

Earlier this month, graduation season was in full swing. High school seniors across the city and surrounding counties marched to “Pomp and Circumstance” and received their high school diplomas as friends and family looked on proudly. Students from many different local schools wore the colorful caps and gowns that are as customary as the classic tune by Sir Edward Elgar. Most schools across the area pick two of their school colors, have the boys wear one, and the girls wear the other. But for a certain population within the school systems, picking one color or the other isn’t as easy.

“I was sitting in graduation … seeing in some of our high schools, we have gender-specific gowns,” said Richmond Public School Superintendent Jason Kamras. “We have lots of young people who don’t identify as strictly male or female, or are trying to figure that out for themselves.” In an effort to create a more welcoming environment at graduation, Kamras wanted to take an age-old tradition and turn it on its head.

Superintendent Kamras. Photo via Richmond Public Schools.

Kamras tweeted on June 13 that starting next year, he would be recommending a gender-neutral cap and gown policy for Richmond Public Schools at their graduations.  “Let’s make sure ALL of our young people – however they identify – feel welcome at their own graduations,” he said in his tweet.

This trend of implementing gender-neutral caps and gowns for graduation is not new to the area. Last year, Prince George’s County Public Schools started having all of their graduating seniors walk across the stage all in the same color. This mirrors the actions of schools across the nation that have broken with tradition to wear a single color at graduations.

Many, if not all, schools that make the change say they are making the change in order to be less divisive and more welcome to transgender or gender non-conforming students. Kamras firmly stood by this reason. “I don’t believe in creating a situation where they don’t feel comfortable or welcome at their own graduation,” he said.

Although it may seem like a small burden, wearing a color that categorizes you as a gender that does not match your gender identity can be extraordinarily jarring and dysphoric. Kamras recognizes the importance of the singular color for those that are harmed by the gender-designated color schemes. “Just pick a color, and have everybody wear that,” he said. “[It is] a small change that can mean a lot to a lot of kids.”

No official policy changes have come into effect yet. Kamras said he needs to look through the policy guidelines in order to move forward. Perhaps this time next year, students will be crossing stages throughout the city in one singular color.