, Derry, New Hampshire

June 13, 2013

Pinkerton to allow military sash at graduation

National Guard sash will be allowed at graduation

By Doug Ireland

---- — DERRY — Pinkerton Academy is reversing course and allowing a student to wear her National Guard sash to graduation.

The school’s administration announced last Friday afternoon that Skylar Anderson, 18, will be able to wear the sash over her graduation gown June 17 after the senior was told June 4 she could not, school spokesman Chip Underhill said.

Laurie Anderson said her daughter was devastated when she asked if the sash was allowed and an associate dean said it would violate school policy. Pinkerton only permitted school sashes, such as those worn by National Honor Society members, Laurie Anderson said.

“I don’t think it’s right,” she said Friday, shortly before administrators gathered to reconsider the decision.

The Pinkerton Board of Trustees met June 6 to discuss the matter as well, Underhill said.

“I want them to respect the military and respect this country,” the mother said. “I don’t know why it’s such a big deal for her to wear her sash.”

Anderson said Skylar joined the National Guard in January because she wanted to serve her country. She was also inspired because her grandfathers served in the Vietnam War, one earning a Purple Heart.

“She’s been thinking about it for a few years,” Anderson said. “She is really proud of her grandfathers.”

Anderson said she didn’t understand why the school told Skylar she couldn’t wear her military sash but encouraged Derry students to a honor a former Pinkerton student whose funeral was held earlier this month.

Hundreds of students lined the street and waved small American flags during the procession for 1st Lt. Paul DeMeo. The 23-year-old Army ranger died unexpectedly May 14 while serving at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Pinkerton headmaster Mary Anderson issued a statement June 7, saying the school did not intend to show any disrespect.

“Pinkerton Academy has the utmost respect for the United States military,” she said.

She said Pinkerton would allow for military sashes to be worn, even though the administration believes in celebrating the graduates as a group — with everyone wearing the same attire.

“To celebrate the group, Pinkerton’s policy on graduation apparel promotes graduates’ common success as students wear a unified cap and gown with time-honored marks of academic performance,” Mary Anderson said. “Our graduation policy is designed to celebrate all, be fair to all, and not set a precedent of granting special exception.”

The headmaster said the school has traditionally honored students at graduation who will be entering the military. Laurie Anderson said there are at least three Pinkerton students in the Guard, but Underhill said he only knew of Skylar.

When the nearly 800 graduates receive their diplomas at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, Skylar and others who serve will be asked to stand and be recognized, Anderson said. They can then put on the sash, the headmaster said.

Although Skylar enjoys being a member of the Guard, her goal is to be a veterinarian, her mother said. Skylar, the third of Laurie and Michael Anderson’s five daughters, will attend the University of Vermont this fall and major in veterinary science.

The family could not be reached for comment following the school’s decision.