Future Marine Ignored At High School Graduation For What He’s Wearing

Full of pride during his graduation, Jacob waited for the principal to call his name in recognition of his accomplishments. Yet, when it was finally his turn, the principal took one look at him, paused, and moved on to the next name on the list. For some reason, Jacob had been overlooked at his own graduation. But when people found out why, they were up in arms.

Dreams Of The Military

Jacob Dalton Stanley was born and raised in Crown Point, Indiana, where he attended Crown Point High School. Unlike most teenage boys his age, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

Since he was a young boy, he had dreams of joining the military and reaching the rank of sergeant. He wanted to be just like his father and first began expressing his interest in the armed forces when he was just ten years old.

Going To Boot Camp

Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Jacob knew that it would be a hard road to reach his dreams, so he made sure to keep his nose in the books at school to prepare himself for what was to come. Just after wrapping up most of his studies, Jacob went and applied to be a marine.

He then continued to do the necessary boot camp, making it home in Indiana just in time for his graduation.

He Was On His Way

Upon returning home from boot camp, he was created by his mother and girlfriend, who couldn’t have been more proud of him and all that he managed to accomplish. Of course, Jacob was sporting his Marine Corps uniform, with his mother almost breaking down in tears the first time she saw him in it.

Jacob had done what he had set out to do despite anyone who had ever doubted him. On top of it all, Jacob was about to graduate.

Graduation Time

Beaming with pride, Jacob, his mom Kathy, and his girlfriend all got into the car and headed to the graduation ceremony. Today was a big day for Jacob; he was beginning a new chapter in his life. He was more than ready to have that diploma in his hand finally.

After all, he knew that he deserved it after all of the hard work that he had put in over the years. Now, it was only a few hours away.

Respect From His Colleagues And Teachers

Picture of graduation
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

When Jacob arrived at school for the ceremony, he walked among the crowd saying hello to his friends and teachers, with some people even giving him a salute as he passed. The excitement in the air was palpable among the soon-to-be graduates, parents, and teachers.

What Jacob had decided to wear had become a topic of discussion, and while it wasn’t intended to cause any problems, it turned out to be more trouble than anyone could have imagined.

The Graduation Begins

Picture of graduates
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The principal of Crown Point High School was a man named Chip Pettit. The graduation began once he took the stage, picked up the microphone, and began the opening lines to the commencement speech.

Once he finished, it was time for the students’ names to be called. Pettit then began reading the names of the graduates down the list in alphabetical order.

Jacob Was Ready

By the time Principal Pettit reached the “S” names, Jacob could barely contain his excitement. To honor the occasion, Jacob had even prepared a small acceptance speech that he would share with the crowd.

He was up! There was a pause, and then his name wasn’t called. Pettit looked directly at Jacob, smirked, and then moved onto the next name, clearly skipping Jacob on purpose. Jacob couldn’t believe it; there had to be some kind of mistake.

He Didn’t Adhere To The Dress Code

Pictures of graduates
MyLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
MyLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Jacob looked down and realized the reason must be because he was wearing his Marine Corps uniform instead of the required dress code for the graduation. But Jacob wasn’t trying to be offensive or directly go against the principal.

He was proud of his accomplishment and wanted to show people his plans after receiving his diploma. While the principal had made a comment earlier about his uniform, Jacob politely told him it’s what he wanted to wear.

His Mother Was Infuriated

Jacob was wearing the uniform symbolizing that he was willing to lay his life down for his country. Why was he being treated like this? His mother looked around and noticed other students whose names had been called that had also broken the dress code.

In an interview, Kathy went on to say, “There was one student who wore shorts and gym shoes, and another student who wore a red turban symbolizing his religious views.”

Jacob Went All Out

Picture of marines
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

For his graduation, Jacob decided that he wanted to wear his full dress blue Marine Corps. At the time, there was nothing in the Crown Point Community School Corp. bylaws that stated whether U.S. military uniforms could be worn at graduation or not.

Not a single person seemed to care except for the principal. In fact, the majority of people were outraged by the whole situation, considering that Jacob had just enlisted to serve the country.

People Were There For Support

Leann Tustison, one of Jacob’s fellow graduates, commented that the situation was “absolutely ridiculous […] He’s in the military putting his life on the line for us. It’s unacceptable that he was not allowed to walk across the stage.”

Tustison went on to say that all of the fellow students were “outraged” and were prepared to walk out of the graduation in solidarity with Jake.

Outcry From All Over

Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

It didn’t take long for word to spread about what had happened at the graduation. Christal Hernandez, who heard the story posted on Facebook, wrote this:

“It amazes me that all through life, people are always telling you to be proud that you’re different, celebrate your uniqueness, yet at one of the most memorable events in your life, an administrator makes the decision to completely destroy your accomplishments.”

The Story Reached Many People

Even the House Education Committee heard the story not long after everything had happened.

One user on Facebook posted, “I sent a letter to Mr. Pettit a letter today. I know of people who are pulling all financial support of CPHS and their programs over this. If that were my son, I would have escorted him across the stage.” During all this commotion, the real question was what Mr. Pettit had to say.

Jacob Didn’t Take The Warning Seriously

Supposedly, when Jacob participated in the Crown Point High School graduation ceremony rehearsal that day, Mr. Pettit had approached Jacob, informing him that he wouldn’t be able to wear his uniform during the ceremony.

Jacob didn’t think much of it and was shocked when the principal stayed true to his word. While Mr. Pettit had given Jacob a warning, was taking Jacob’s name off of the list the right thing to do? Was it worth it?

Mr. Pettit Wouldn’t Back Down

Picture of graduates
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Despite all of the hate that Principal Pettit received for what happened at the graduation, he stood his ground. He was firm in his beliefs that he was only enforcing school policy and that Jacob could have worn a military stole or cord over his gown to demonstrate that he was going into the Marines.

Pettit commented to NBC Chicago, stating, “This tradition is not intended to be disrespectful to students, parents, or our community, but as a source of pride for our students.”

Adding Fuel To The Fire

Picture of soldiers
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

To anger the public even more, at Hobart High School, a young woman named Ana Kritikos had also enlisted in the Marine Corps and graduated early to do so. She was even given permission to wear her military uniform during the official commencement ceremony with all of the other students.

Supposedly, when she asked the administration if she could wear her uniform, they were in total support of the idea and commended her for it.

What Was The Difference?

Praising the administration for their decision to let her wear her uniform, Ana commented, “They have been absolutely amazing. It is OK with the Marines for us to wear our uniforms at high school graduation […] I know the School Board, the principal, and superintendent talked about it and were in agreement that I could wear my Marine uniform.”

So why wasn’t Jacob allowed to wear his when other high schools were encouraging their students to?

Hobart High Was Beyond Supportive

Picture of Peggy

While Crown Point High School was still under fire for what happened to Jacob, Peggy Buffington, the Hobart High Superintendent, had something else to say.

“We recognize audience members and future military in our graduates by having them stand,” she said. “It is always a very special and patriotic moment where the audience roars with applause. This year was especially nice because Ana Kritikos graduated midterm and landed just in time for the graduation ceremony.”

The Marine Corps Had Something To Say

Picture of a uniform
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

According to a US Marine Corps spokesman, school dress code is not something that the military gets involved in. Marine Corps Major Clark Carpenter commented, “The Marine Corps does not dictate what specific high schoolers can or cannot graduate in […] That decision is up to school leadership.”

While some people were disappointed to hear this, it turns out that school leaders may not have the last say when it comes to wearing military uniforms for long.

The State Became Involved

As the news spread, it reached the ears of State Representative Mike Aylesworth, who was beside himself regarding Jacob’s story. Being a veteran himself, he had something to say about it. He said, “What happened I found not appropriate.

I think people who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way should have the option to wear a uniform at graduation.” Unsurprisingly, countless people agreed with him.

He Pushed A New Bill

In my old Chevy truck

Posted by Michael J Aylesworth on Friday, October 23, 2009

Before long, State Representative Mike Aylesworth had achieved committee approval for a new bill that made it so school districts could allow students already serving in the military to wear their dress uniform rather than the traditional cap and gown.

After the bill passed, Mike added, “It’s a hodgepodge of local school board regulations all over the state. I just want to make it consistent all over the state.” He was praised for his efforts by the public.

Jacob Had Something To Say

dvids / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
dvids / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Although Wheeler Stanley, Jacob’s father, refused to comment about exactly what happened at the graduation, he did say that he would support legislation in enforcing a uniform standard across the state.

When Jacob was later asked how he felt about everything, he stated, “I don’t want the social media controversy that is drawing attention away from the Class of 2017 […] I also do not want to make any additional statements and wish to put this all behind me so I can start my career in the Marine Corps.”