All graduating seniors in the Lake Oswego School District wore blue graduation gowns for their commencement ceremonies earlier this month — light blue at Lakeridge High and navy blue at Lake Oswego High.
The change came in response to a request from LOHS students last year for the school to join a national movement to end the long-held tradition of donning graduation gowns in colors assigned by gender.
Since at least the 1980s, LOHS graduates have stepped into school colors at commencement in a hue assigned by gender: girls in white gowns and boys in navy blue. But more than 150 graduating Lakers wore navy robes last year to draw attention to the effect that gender-affiliated colors can have on female, transgender and gender-minority students.
Class of 2016 grad Emma-Jo Newcomer Formanek said at the time there was no third option for transgender students. "And even if there was, I don't think people would want to come out" through their grad gown color decision, she said.
Students also pointed out that the school originally only had one graduation robe color when it first opened and in its early years.
The LOHS students' protest inspired a districtwide change, with every member of the Class of 2017 on either side of the lake putting on a blue robe.
Cindy Schubert, the LOHS principal who retired last year, said in May 2016 that the students' protest came too late in the year to alter the district's direction, because students already had ordered their gowns. She said it might be an option the following year, and that's just what's happened.
LOHS Principal Rollin Dickinson said that he and his staff want students "to feel supported and safe
— on the first day of school, on gra-
duation day and every day bet-
"For the past couple years, some students had expressed discomfort," Dickinson said. "They had to either wear a gown that did not match their gender identity or publicly wear one that did, and then have people ask why. They, their friends and fellow students encouraged us to rethink this practice."
Dickinson said that after having conversations with students, the school decided to make the change. "I am proud of our students for being open with each other and open to this change," he said.
Lakeridge Principal Jennifer Schiele said her school had not received any complaints last year, but she and Pacer students wanted to
go with one color this year to pre-
vent anyone from feeling uncomfortable.
"The students just thought that they would be proactive and choose to go with blue robes," Schiele said.
She said she did not get a strong response to the decision, either for or against.
"I did not hear anything from students or families about the change," she said.