BVH principal gathers IB students to discuss cap and gown debate


Jaime Jazo

BVH principal Roman Del Rosario visits Jose Vallejo’s fifth period History of the America’s (HOTA) to get student opinions on the white gown debate. Fifth period HOTA was especially adamant about keeping the white gowns reserved for IB diploma candidates.

Nicole Macgaffey, Features Editor

On April 5, Bonita Vista High (BVH) Principal Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D. gathered senior International Baccalaureate (IB) students into the second and fifth period of IB History of the Americas (HOTA) class. There he had an open discussion regarding the modification of requirements to wear a white gown at graduation.  

This community wide discussion was prompted by Samuel Sandoval’s statement on March 14 at the Sweetwater Union High School District board of trustees meeting, requesting the “immediate” change in policy regarding the way students earn the white gown recognition at graduation. He called the standing policy “inequitable, discriminatory, and punitive.” 

“It’s one of those situations that at the end of this process is a right right dilemma. It’s not saying that you’re wrong and I’m right, but it’s trying to be thoughtful about what’s in the best interest of the school and ultimately what’s best for you,” Del Rosario said to IB students in second period HOTA. 

Del Rosario started the discussion by emphasizing the importance for him to hear student voices. Before he answered questions and received student opinions, he provided background regarding the history of the white robes’ use at BVH. Additionally, the decision for this year would be a temporary one that would be further discussed later to find a more conclusive solution for future years.  

I’m not comfortable with the timing for this to be how we’re going to change it forever,” Del Rosario said. “We are trying to move on beyond this for the class of 2022 and then reopen it to a broader group at the beginning of the school year. So it’s going to be a conversation for the class of 2022 and then a larger conversation for class of 2023 and beyond.”

He reassured the candidates that they are guaranteed to graduate in white, this received sighs of relief from students in second period as they had been under the impression that white robes would be entirely removed. The conversation has revolved around whether non-diploma candidates who “distinguish themselves in a remarkable way” should be considered to be a part of the white robe distinction.

“There is an argument that we should have never had the white robes and we should have stayed with blue robes from the beginning. I, as principal, said that is out of bounds,” Del Rosario said. “For the class of 2022, there’s nothing that’s going to dissuade me from allowing them to walk in white.” 

During second period, IB Diploma Candidate and senior Bibiana Martinez asked about the requirements for non-diploma candidates to graduate in white. Del Rosario then mentioned that one idea would revolve around a certain Grade Point Average (GPA) requirement students would have to meet. However, there is no definitive solution or number yet. While there was not a definitive number, numbers such as 4.2 and 4.3 were thrown around numerous times as an example. 

“Right now, I’m going to ask for input from our teachers on what would be a criteria where we have a very high threshold of an expectation and do not minimize the hard work IB students have done,” Del Rosario said.

The white robe distinction was also talked about being opened up to top students in the special education department. They do not have access to Advanced Placement (AP) and IB courses which means they are not able to participate in the IB program or meet the potential GPA requirement that can be acquired through taking AP classes.

“40 students are in our Fundamental Program, and they’ll never have an opportunity to be an IB candidate. They’re not allowed via their [Individualized Education Program] IEPs and their learning disabilities. Why not have a criteria where the top two or three of that group join?,” Del Rosario said. 

Continuing the conversation, IB Diploma candidate and senior Henry Tang shared his opinion in favor of expanding white robes to other students. Tang believes there are numerous non-diploma candidate students who deserve the recognition. 

I know a lot of people who are very talented and academically accomplished, but they’re not in the IB program. Part of that is how stiff the requirements to graduate or to graduate with an IB diploma are. Many classes are two year courses. I think that’s unrealistic for a lot of people to attain in this sector,” Tang said. 

In period five, multiple students spoke out with strong passion about their complete disapproval to expand the number of students who would wear the white robe during graduation. Less room was left for Del Rosario to respond to each comment or question as more students wished to voice their opinions compared to the second period. IB Diploma Candidate and senior Anahi Marquez-Silva was one of the students not in favor of extending the amount of students who would qualify to wear the white robe. 

“This is a really big decision for our school. It’s a little premature to make such a big decision on our graduation specifically because regardless of if you still honor us, you are still pulling us out of the rug, if you give somebody else [the recognition]. [IB Diploma Candidates were] under the impression that we would be the only ones graduating in white,” Marquez said. “I don’t think this year is the time to change because you’re only going to be deliberating for a week and we’ve been deliberating and working for this for four years.”

IB Diploma Program Coordinator Jared Phelps was present during the conversation in both periods. Phelps listened to student opinions while giving his own thoughts on the matter. He served as a grounding voice on the issue, often offering alternate points of view to try and expand students’ stances on the matter. Similarly Del Rosario explained how divisive the issue has made BVH.

Just because we have always done something some way it does not mean we should keep doing things that way… if the only justification we have is that it’s ‘tradition’ then that’s a crappy reason.

— IB Diploma Program Coordinator Jared Phelps

“Something that I always firmly stood behind is just because we have always done something some way does it not mean we should keep doing things that way. It doesn’t mean I don’t think that IB students shouldn’t be graduating the white, but if the only justification we have is that it’s ‘tradition’ then that’s a crappy reason,” Phelps said.  

The input gathered from both periods was used in a Faculty Advisory Committee meeting the following Thursday to discuss the best way to handle the situation. The practice of using white robes for IB Diploma Candidates has been practiced for 15 years. Del Rosario’s decision is expected to come out early this week..

Martinez in her final comment during the second period noted the importance of keeping the conversation civil and respectful. 

“It’s recognition but don’t make it as cutthroat as it is right now. Don’t attack people, don’t make people feel bad, or call people things ignorantly,” Martinez said. “I think that’s also our job to start talking to other people that we might not have the same opinion with. It’s our job right now to try to destigmatize how heated the argument has become in certain areas.”