I had more than one person message me to ask what I thought of the story about Plano Senior High and the fact that the school does not use the National Honor Society stoles at graduation. One person in the real estate business even asked me what kind of impact this might have on parents looking for homes – would they want to send their child to a school that seemingly doesn’t recognize hard work and apparently wants things homogenous?
But then I started poking around. And as with much outrage, there is another part of this story, one that was not mentioned. And since I really would rather be right than first, I actually asked both Plano Senior High and the National Honor Society for some more details.
So here’s the deal. My first inkling that all was as it seemed was a statement by Dr. Yoram Solomon, a Plano ISD trustee, on Facebook. Solomon brings up several points, but one jumped out immediately – that the tradition at Plano Senior High of wearing an honors stole and not the NHS stole is 40 years old.
“It seems there have been some assumptions that Plano Senior High School does not recognize honor students during graduation,” Plano ISD’s Executive Director of Communications Lesley Range-Stanton told me, adding that “honor graduates are designated as such in the graduation program and are also recognized with a white honor stole and with an announcement of ‘honor graduate’ after their names during the ceremony.”
The national NHS office doesn’t require the use of the stoles, either. According to Bob Farrace, the Director of Public Affairs for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the NHS pretty much leaves graduation regalia up to the individual schools. “The NHS national office has no policy on wearing NHS stoles at graduation,” Farrace said. “Students understandably value the NHS insignia for the commitment it represents, and each school weighs that value against the needs of the larger community.”
“We are confident local schools will resolve these issues on their own, in a manner that honors both student voice an essential element of the leadership NHS develops – and local customs and policies,” he concluded.
“Since the school opened in 1975 and with the first graduating class of 1976, students have worn one item of distinction during the graduation ceremony and that is the white honor stole for students with a GPA of 3.6 and above (an academic standard which matches requirements for the National Honor Society),” Range-Stanton further explained to me. “We are aware that many honor students may not also be members of the National Honor Society, but the school has opted not to include additional regalia per tradition.”
Well, now here’s the kicker – the policy has reportedly been reviewed at least a couple of times, and the school is open to reviewing it again. “This longstanding practice was formally reviewed and discussed by student leaders and administration at least twice in the past, once in 2004 and again around 2008 or 2009,” Range-Stanton said. “Both times, the tradition of not including any regalia for various student clubs, honor societies, leadership roles or other activities was explained to them, and in 2008/2009, class officers and student congress were given the opportunity to consider a change in the practice. The student leaders opted to uphold the tradition. The campus will look at the practice again next year if students wish.”
“Next week I will be honored to stand on stage for Plano Senior High School graduations,” Solomon said, and also alluded to the fact that the current regalia was mostly student choice. “I will greet every student, tell them how proud I am of them, and ask them to be good people, and be the best they can. I’m not a supporter of ‘medals for participation,’ but we are celebrating their graduation next week, exactly the way they wanted to celebrate it, and I will honor their wishes!”
While it is true that the other high schools do allow the NHS stoles, Solomon takes exception to the idea that it means Plano Senior High must also. ” I would love to give our schools and principals the autonomy they need to deliver the best education they can,” he said. “We have 72 different schools. And make no mistake–they are ALL different. No two schools are the same. Some policies should be dealt with at the district level, but some at the school level.”