Army sash causes graduation controversy

POLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A family is fighting for their daughter's right to wear a military sash during high school graduation.

ShaiAne Belinski is joining the Army after graduation. Army recruiters typically provide graduates with a sash that they can wear over their gown if the school allows it. Poland Regional High School only allows students to wear items affiliated with the school. Belinski and her mother Tina Kelly are challenging that tradition.

It's an issue that has come up in other places as well. A family in Topsham is challenging a similar policy. The School Board in Augusta changed its policy last year and now allows students to wear military sashes during graduation.

Tina Kelly says her daughter should be able to display her pride in serving her country.

"I think that if it has anything to do with academics on any level, whether it be directly from Poland, or whether it be from a driving force that helped the child graduate from Poland, Poland should allow them to display that with pride as something they accomplished that year."

Poland Superintendent Tina Meserve says the rule is in place to unify the student body.

"For us it's about, is the focus going to stay on what you have accomplished at PRHS during your four years here? Or do we want to open that up and say we can celebrate your accomplishments here, but we also want to highlight where you're going in your future?" Meserve told NEWS CENTER.

The family met with the superintendent Tina Meserve Wednesday afternoon. Meserve asked Belinski to follow the rules, but said if she wore the sash anyway, she would still be allowed to walk. Tina Kelly tells NEWS CENTER her daughter plans to follow the rules and not wear the sash during the ceremony.


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