Kilcup petitions for changes to graduation dress code

When Nora Kilcup, senior, received her Senior Bulletin, a booklet for seniors detailing all the rules, regulations and important dates pertaining to graduation, she noticed something unsettling. The dress code for women at the senior assembly and graduation ceremony strictly requires a dress to be worn under the traditional graduation gown.

“I have some friends who are just uncomfortable about their bodies and prefer not to wear dresses. It’s not fair to force them to wear something they are uncomfortable in,” she said.

So Kilcup decided to take action. She first approached Principal Scott Lyons with her concern, who consulted the graduation committee and decided to maintain the original dress code. “He explained that it was tradition,” she said.

“It was important to maintain the formal uniform decorum that has been established at graduation ceremonies,” explained Lyons, via e-mail, in response to Kilcup’s request.

Kilcup then sought support from fellow students. She made an online petition and shared the website with friends through Facebook and fliers to share with other LRHS students. She managed to get sixty signatures, which she shared with assistant principal Will Pope.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, explained Kilcup, it is against women’s First Amendment rights to force them to wear dresses and cited a 2002 ACLU case in her petition to strengthen her point.

Despite some opposition from students, teachers and administrators, Lyons and the graduation committee acknowledged supporters of the proposed dress code modification and reconsidered changes to the policy.

Heather Dinkenor, Leesville’s graduation coordinator, said, “We didn’t want to change the uniformity of the ceremony for one student. Until this year, all girls were required to wear dresses with the exception of medical or religious reasons.”

“After meeting with Nora, two additional students came forward with the same request.  At this point, we felt that we should re-examine the issue since more than one student shared the same concern,” said Lyons.

As of Tuesday, May 10, the policy requiring that women wear dresses under their gowns was modified to include dress pants as well.

“I am proud of the way she handled it,” said Dinkenor.


  1. Thank you Nora! My daughter doesn’t wear dresses. As a result of your actions, she can attend graduation comfortable in her outfit!

  2. Good for you Nora, and the entire student body at Leesville! What an antiquated and discriminatory “tradition”. And thank you to Leesville Administration for having the common sense to make this change. I thought we corrected these situations when I was in High School in the ’70’s!


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