By Anna Skinner
When Matthieu Picard learned his friend Noah Alderton wouldn’t be able to walk during Fishers High School’s graduation ceremony, it encouraged him to start a petition against the school’s use of cap-and-gown company Herff Jones.
Picard and other students thought Herff Jones’ price of more than $67 wasn’t realistic for what FHS could allow students to purchase from elsewhere. Alderton bought a red cap and gown from Amazon.com that didn’t have the FHS crest, and according to Picard, now he won’t be able to walk at graduation.
After Herff Jones presented to seniors last fall and seniors ordered their caps and gowns, months passed and Piccard said he didn’t think much of it.
“Months passed, but then more recently, it kind of came up again where we’re realizing because my friend hadn’t bought a cap and gown through that company that now he couldn’t walk at graduation,” Picard said. “We want to make sure future classes at Fishers High School pay a fairer rate for caps and gowns and make them more accessible for them.”
Picard’s petition has three goals: for caps and gowns to be approximately $30; for there to be no in-school sales pitch and for clear prices and information to be available on what must be bought or rented to walk in graduation.
“On this petition, it’s not so much a matter of going against one company or another, it’s more a matter of inviting in more companies,” he said. “We just want to make sure no company has the ability to charge whatever they want because they have monopolistic power.”
Hamilton Southeastern Schools released the following statement on Picard’s petition.
“The administration at Fishers High School has met with several students regarding their concerns over caps, gowns and graduation. We are proud of the initiative these students have taken and believe the conversation will continue in preparation for next year’s ceremony. With just a few days before graduation, we are unable to make any significant changes. Most students have already ordered their cap and gown. Students and families with financial challenges have been working with their guidance counselors to address their needs. Graduation ceremonies are considered an extracurricular activity. Students who choose to participate are required to wear the appropriate attire to maintain the unity and integrity of this special occasion.”
Picard said the school board chooses which supplier to go with after a June renegotiation process, but that only two companies – Herff Jones and Josten’s – ever presented.
“The school board makes the decision of which supplier to go through give exclusive right, but there’s only two vendors (there),” he said. “Really, we would like to see more suppliers to make it out and present a case.”
Fishers High School’s graduation is scheduled for June 3.
Herff Jones released the following statement:
“Our corporate office is aware of the student petition circulating online regarding the requirement to wear the school-approved custom graduation gown at commencement. We have been working closely with the Fishers High School administration and the local Herff Jones independent sales representative for the school.
“As leaders in the graduation market, Herff Jones partners with schools to produce custom branded regalia to celebrate one of the most important days in a student’s life. This regalia, exclusively designed and manufactured in Champaign, Illinois, for high schools, elevates the traditional look and feel of the commencement ceremony while celebrating the spirit that makes every school unique.
“Led by a purpose to inspire students, capture experiences and celebrate achievements, our goal is for every student to have the opportunity to participate in graduation regardless of their ability to pay. For our part, Herff Jones has always made a commitment to schools, parents and students that if for any reason they are unable to purchase the school-required cap and gown, we would ensure the student is provided the necessary regalia to walk at graduation through fundraising or donation.
“For more than 97 years, we’ve had the privilege to be a part of graduation experiences throughout the country. We look forward to celebrating yet again with the Class of 2017.”