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Grad will wear uniform

Senior allowed to don Marine dress blues for ceremony

Posted: March 6, 2009 1:09 a.m.
Updated: March 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Nicholas Laccabue will wear his Marine dress blues when he attends his high school graduation ceremony.

 
A local high school senior who graduated early and joined the Marines will be "walking" at graduation in his uniform, not the school cap and gown, following a change of heart by Saugus High School Principal Bill Bolde.

"Administratively, I recognized that we have never done anything like this before," Bolde said Thursday.

"We have consistently had the practice of all graduates wearing the traditional cap and gown during the ceremony. In fact, we've always had the wording in the contract for seniors that specifically states that "no alterations, substitutions or modifications" may be made to the attire."

His mother, Shari, said she is relieved that her son can wear his uniform.

Nicholas Laccabue left for boot camp Dec. 15 after finishing high school early.

Before leaving, the 17-year-old senior asked his mother to find out if he could wear his military uniform at the June graduation.

"I really didn't think it was going to be an issue," Shari Laccabue said.

Bolde initially denied Laccabue's request in December, but he said Thursday he continued to consider the issue and seek advice from his peers.

"I am a proud American who honors and prays daily for our military leaders as well as the men and women all over the world who make up our armed forces," he said. "My intent has never been to dishonor those who stand watch for our liberties."

The William S. Hart Union High School District has a site-by-site policy in place that allows principals to decide whether a student can wear something other than a cap and gown to graduation, spokeswoman Pat Willett said.

"They really try to maintain the decorum of the graduation practice," Willett said.

The district's policy for graduation attire will most likely be on the March 11 governing board agenda, Willett said.

The board can then adopt a policy outlining instances when a cap and gown would not be required for graduation, she said.

After Bolde's decision in December, Shari Laccabue contacted local veterans and board members to express her outrage.

Her concerns made it to the office of Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon office, who supported Laccabue.

"(McKeon) asked me to make sure the young man is entitled to wear his uniform," said Bob Haueter, spokesman for McKeon.

A Hart district board member challenged Bolde's earlier decision.

"I was just flabbergasted," said Paul Strickland. "Here a young man has accomplished so much completing his required course work early and then going onto to the Marines and sacrificing for his country."

Nicholas Laccabue wanted to be a Marine since the age of 2, his mother said.

"He has never wavered," she said.

He played with GI Joe action figures and dressed up as a Marine for Halloween, she said.

Through his letters home, Shari watched her son mature.

"As an American, I'm just in awe. I'm overwhelmed," she said. "My son has my respect."

He enlisted in 2008 and spent the past three months at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, she said.

Bolde remains proud of the achievements of students who attend military academies.

"Nicholas Laccabue is going to walk proudly in his dress blues at the Saugus High School graduation ceremony June 3," Saugus High School Principal Bill Bolde said in a statement. "I am looking forward to putting the Lamp of Learning medallion around his neck, shaking his hand and telling him ‘well done' as he crosses the stage."

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