High School Valedictorian Banned From Walking Due to Goatee Addresses Controversy

Valedictorian not walking because beard
Andrew Jones had everything to be excited about going into his high school graduation: he was the class valedictorian, he was graduating with a 4.0 GPA- but the day didn’t go as planned for the young man all thanks to a little facial hair.

The young man was all set to walk across the stage to collect his diploma from Amite High School, until he was stopped just before the ceremony and told that if he didn’t shave right then, he couldn’t participate in the graduation. The student chose not to shave and his resulting banning from participation has sparked questions and outrage.

Jones has finally spoken out about the incident, saying that he didn’t feel the need to shave because he’d been wearing the facial hair, without consequence, for the entire school year. “I refused to shave because I felt as if that was ridiculous, being that I went the whole school year with my facial hair,” he told NBC News.

Tangipahoa Parish school superintendent Mark Kolwe has issued an official statement addressing the matter. “The Tangipahoa Parish School Board Student Dress Code Policy states that “beards will not be allowed.” As Superintendent, I am obligated to ensure that all Board policies are followed.”

He also says that he was in attendance at the ceremony and witnessed Jones’ refusal to shave the goatee.

As Superintendent, I try to attend all high school graduation ceremonies in the parish and was present for the ceremony at Amite High School that evening. The school’s principal told me about the situation, and I immediately went to speak with Andrew’s dad and with Mr. Walter Daniels, Tangipahoa Parish School Board Member from District A. Prior to the beginning of the ceremony, I directed one of the Amite High School teachers to give Andrew the shaving cream and razor and tell him that, if he shaved right away, he could still participate in the processional and take his place on stage with the other graduates. The teacher conveyed the message; however, at that time, Andrew’s dad confirmed to her that Andrew was not going to participate. Andrew remained in the stands during the graduation exercises and received his diploma after the ceremony.

Finally, Kolwe maintains that at the end of the day, Jones’ refusal to not shave and subsequent consequence of not being allowed to talk at graduation, was a direct result of Jones’ own decisions. “It is regrettable that any student — particularly an honor student like Andrew– would not get to participate in his high school graduation ceremony, a ceremony that comes along only once in the lifetime of every student. In this case, however, Andrew made that decision for himself by failing to comply with the reasonable requests made by his parents and school officials that he comply with the rules applicable to all other students.”

Either way, Jones still has a bright future ahead. He’ll be attending Southeastern Louisiana University, on both academic and atheletic scholarships, come fall.

Take a look at Andrew’s interview addressing the controversy below:

Photo Credit: Facebook