Principal vetoes graduate wearing military sash at high school graduation

Local News

HAVANA, Ill. (WMBD) — A teen who graduated from Havana High School on Sunday said he was not allowed to wear a military sash on the special day.

Dominique Barner, 18, joined the Illinois National Guard in October. During the high school graduation ceremony Sunday, he said the assistant principal told him to take off the military camouflage sash gifted to him by his recruiter the previous day.

“I took the sash to the principal and he just double-downed on that and said ‘Should he choose to wear that sash, he will not cross the stage with the rest of his graduating class,'” said Amber Barner, Dominique’s mother.

Dominique said he was surprised because the principal, David McKinney, is a 24-year veteran.

“Especially with our principal’s military background, I would have thought that it would have been fine and he would have supported it, but he didn’t … It made me feel like I wasn’t respected for my choice to go into the military,” he said.

The school’s graduation ceremony policy indicates only honor cords are allowed. In a statement, the school likened outside regalia to advertising, and said the policy has “nothing to do with patriotism.”

“There has been a recent trend of colleges, universities, the armed forces and others to profit and get free advertising from high school students at graduation … Once we start letting outside organizations use our students to start advertising, where will it stop? Almost every student will feel pressure to add something and we will end up with 70 different alterations to the cap and gown with the class no longer looking the same.”

R. Mathew Plater, Superintendent, Havana Community Unit School District #126

The school said they have a separate awards ceremony where they honor students’ outside achievements like the military.

Still, Amber, a veteran herself, said she considers the action disrespectful to the military and feels things need to change. Additionally, she reached out to State Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb).

“This was really a slap in the face to all military service members past and present, so our goal is to invoke change at the local level. He had earned the right to at least wear the sash,” Amber said

Barner heads off to basic training on June 2.

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