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Diploma Tie Up

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A Maryland high school is tying up 17-year-old Thomas Benya’s diploma.

Seems the teenager committed the crime of wearing a bolo tie under his graduation gown. That violated the dress code. Boys were supposed to wear a necktie – exactly what a bolo is — just ask anyone west of the Mississippi. And Benya, a native American, sees bolos as proper ties.

Mr Benya is getting some support from out west. Gov Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) is miffed. He told the Washington Post:

“To have some high school say that a bolo tie is not a tie is an outrage. In Montana and anyplace in Indian country, a bolo tie is dressed up. A tie is a tie.”

OK, that’s out west. This happened in Charles County, Maryland, a very rural suburb of Washington, DC, on the right coast.

But the same issue of bolo ties’ appropriateness came up a few years ago in the US Senate — where male Senators must wear a tie on the Senate floor. Then-Sen Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) had refused to wear any kind of tie other than a bolo when he was in the House. He’d asked for and gotten permission to wear a bolo in the lower chamber. There wasn’t even a second thought in granting it.

After his election to the Senate — the worlds greatest deliberative body, decided without debate that bolos are in fact neckties — and quite appropriate wear when debating the issues of the Republic.

The former Senator also chimed in for Mr Benya, telling the Post:

“It seems to me that if the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate give latitude to members of the highest body in the land, a high school shouldn’t be so uptight….”

You would think if the it were good enough for the US Senate, it’d be good enough for Maurice J. McDonough High School.


[Gov Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), left, and
former-Sen Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO)
in bolo ties while in formal government settings.
Photo Credits: Gov Schweitzer’s press office,
and Sen Campbell courtesey of the Denver Post]

And if a high school is this out of touch with America, and can’t accept what is considered business wear west of the Mississippi — or even west of the Potomac now — perhaps Mr Benya shouldn’t worry.

A diploma from such a backwards, backwater school probably isn’t worth having.

Perhaps he should just move on. Maybe consider a job in the Senate.

[Crossposted at Watching Washington]
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About Terry Turner

  • sherri baer

    Why would the school single him out? The kid’s mom was quoted in a wire story as saying another kid took off his pants at graduation and was allowed to receive his diploma. It was noted elsewhere a girl received permission to wear pants and a head scarf, no issue there. Yet it was considered disrespectful for him to wear a bolo and he was penalized even though he followed the rules.

    A bolo tie is a tie. I think the school board owes this kid an apology as well as a diploma.

    Kind of ironic this story broke the same day the senate apologized for ignoring lynchings. Some forms of racism are still acceptable it seems.

  • “The rod up that man’s ass has a rod up its ass.” — Classic quote from The Simpsons, originally applied to Principal Skinner, and probably applicable to whoever made this boneheaded decision as well.

    Not that this should surprise anyone in an era when students can be suspended for wearing T-shirts with the wrong soft drink logo, after their school signed an exclusive vendor deal with a competing soft drink company.

  • Nancy

    At the very least it’s infringing on his civil liberties, in a pedantic, idiot way. I can think of better things for them to worry about than a kid wearing a bolo tie, especially when he was clean & neat.

  • it’s funny how seriously school administrators take these ceremonies.

    heck, the kids are full of emotion but are really there just to goof off and have some fun while waiting for the diploma to show up.

    i mean, at the graduation for one of my stepkids, they started tossing a sex doll around.

    as the duke would say, hilarity ensued.

  • “[I]t’s funny how seriously school administrators take these ceremonies.”

    My college was big on formality at graduation, too, Mark. But I picked up my diploma in cowboy boots.

    In the end, I decided a college or university graduation is really just a “formal hangover.”

  • John McCormcik

    I came from this school the year before the student in question (Spring 2004). The adminstrators set rules and when you break them they deal with you. I was by no means a perfect kid but I still walked at graduation. The kid was repeatedly told the Bolo tie would not be allowed however he wanted to make himself a martyr and told every one he was going to defy everyone and wear it anyways. If a kid has that much disrespect for authority to he does not deserve the diploma. His parents represent an alarming trend in America where we don’t punish our children for the stupid things they do. When the principal tells you to your face that wearing a bolo tie will make it so you can’t walk at graduation you shouldn’t wear it. It is not a cultural insult to call a bolo tie unprofessional. The kid deserved the punishment and I personally think people need to stop defending his disrepectful behavior and need to worry about more important issues.