Heated Gown Color Debate Sparks Students to Speak Up

Heated Gown Color Debate Sparks Students to Speak Up

Clara Hopkins

Principal Roger Arbabi and the administration have come to a conclusion for this year’s graduation gowns: all red with a white drape. But the debate about gown colors isn’t stopping any time soon. 


Senior graduation gowns may seem like a small detail in the big picture of graduation, but some PCHS students have strong feelings about them. 


Prior to 2019, the gown colors Park City graduates wore were red and white: red for boys, white for girls. 


The red and white gowns have been a staple in Park City’s graduation for years. Teachers who have been here for over 15 years, including Mrs. Yeates and Mr. Mulick, recall the gowns being red and white since they’ve arrived at PCHS. 


But last year, students brought a concern to admin about gown colors. Was it okay in 2018 to still be gendering graduation gowns? What about the kids who didn’t feel safe because of the assigned colors, or didn’t want to wear something gendered? 


So the gown colors were switched to uniformly all red. Although this seems like a small change, some students at PCHS were passionate, for and against, about this color switch.


Last year, seniors gathered signatures for the school to revert back to white and red. 


Photo Courtesy of Mrs. Yeates

And the debate has carried on to this current school year for the class of 2020. The senior group chat has been blowing up with the issue, with students voicing opinions on both sides of the argument. 


Senior Prestyn Abraham has a particularly prominent voice in the chat. She believes that the school should revert back to the multi-color system. 


“When I was watching people that graduated two years ago, all the girls were wearing white and I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to wear white!’. It’s a symbolic thing,” Abraham said. 


Abraham didn’t agree with the switch in the first place.


She said the change happened because of only two people without considering the rest of the student body. “I think it bothered me because it was the minority over the majority,” she explained. 


Abraham says she, “totally gets it” as to why it’s dangerous for some kids to wear a different color at the risk of being outed, but she has a proposal. 


“What if we made an equal compromise where we kept the school colors but we made it where you can choose and eliminate the whole gender to go along with it,” Abraham said. 


“Instead of having the gendered colors, people could pick whatever color they want,” she continued.


Senior Morgan Pinkney was also a vocal spokesperson in the group chat, although on the other side of the argument. 


Pinkney is the Gender and Sexuality Educator in Gay Straight Alliance, a club at Park City High School. 


“I think they should be all one color, just so it’s more inclusive for students that are uncomfortable picking one gendered side,” Pinkney explained.


Pinkney’s concern is primarily about safety for transgender students.


“I had a friend, two years ago, who had to pick a color and they were put in a very dangerous situation with their family – and they got kicked out,” he said. “So, it just hits close to home when people are insensitive about it.” 


Pinkney wants people to be more open about changing the gown colors to protect this minority.


“[The white and red gown argument] comes from a lack of understanding, but it’s just a potentially harmful situation,” Pinkney said. 

Photo Courtesy of Tanzi Propst


Pinkney emphasized that even if the colors come back, there will always be the gendered connotation to go along with them. 


The gown color change wasn’t always political. 


Renee Pinkney, a teacher at PCHS, said that the original thought for changing the gowns came years before the switch. She and a group of teachers were near another school’s graduation, and noticed how aesthetically pleasing the one-color gowns looked. 


The initial intent was to make the graduation crowd look harmonious, but Mrs. Pinkney later talked to GSA and asked them their opinions on the topic. They agreed that one color would be better not only for pictures, but also for the safety of closeted students.