Students’ Protest Of Hockaday’s Graduation Dress Creates A Stir

By Scott Farwell
The Dallas Morning News.

The Hockaday School was founded in 1913 with a lofty purpose — to teach girls confidence and resilience, to fight for what they deserve, and to respect “the ideals of human worth and dignity.”

At graduation last month, a group of students said the school betrayed the values it teaches and instead reinforced time-worn views of what it means to be a woman.

It all began last fall, when seniors Anesu Nyatanga and Ascencion Lilia Ramirez requested a meeting with the school’s former headmistress, Kim Wargo, who resigned this month.

They said Hockaday’s 101-year-old graduation dress code — flowing white dresses and summer hats adorned with fresh flowers — made some students feel uncomfortable, especially those who identify their gender as something other than female.

“We wanted another option for people so they could feel comfortable on this beautiful day that’s supposed to celebrate all the hard work they’ve done at school,” said Ramirez, who was vice president of the Gender and Sexuality Awareness Club last school year. “They should feel like themselves.”

Hockaday commencement ceremonies, some say, look like a finishing school procession from the antebellum South — young, fresh-scrubbed debutantes, sashaying their way into high society.

But in this case, looks are deceiving.

While the school is a prestigious rite of passage for scion of the city’s wealthy and well-connected — think names like Perot, Hunt, Cuban and Bush — it is also widely considered one of the most academically rigorous private schools in the country.

Hockaday has a 100 percent college acceptance rate, its student body is diverse, and its graduates routinely thrive in the fields of academia, art, medicine and law.

But Nyatanga, who will be attending New York University in the fall, and Ramirez, who is going to the University of Texas at Austin, say the school’s traditions need a tweak to keep up with the times.

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