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Two Lompoc High School graduating seniors celebrate during the school's 2017 commencement ceremony June 8. School administrators announced this week that they were reversing course from a previous decision and now will allow students to choose whether they want to wear a blue or white gown at the 2018 ceremony.

Len Wood, Staff

As it turns out, wearing either blue or white will be all right.

That was the message sent to Lompoc High School students and parents this week, reversing a prior decision made this fall by school administrators to break from tradition and force all graduating seniors to wear blue gowns at the school’s 2018 commencement ceremony. Traditionally, male graduates have worn blue gowns at the ceremony, while female graduates have worn white gowns.

Some members of the community, including Lompoc High students and alumni, had voiced displeasure with the initial change. Their efforts to block the move apparently paid off, as the school sent an automated message to students’ homes Wednesday announcing that seniors this year will be able to choose whether they wear blue or white when they graduate.

Kari Campbell-Bohard, a Lompoc High alumna and one of the parents who spearheaded the effort to reverse the change, said Thursday she was “extremely pleased” with the school’s decision to bring back the white gown option.

“This is a great resolution for the students at LHS, and should make everyone happy since each student now has the ability to make their own decision regarding which of the school colors they would like to represent at graduation,” she said.

Lompoc High Principal Paul Bommersbach had made the initial decision to scrap the previous tradition and have all the students wear blue. In a letter that he sent to students and parents in October, Bommersbach noted that the changes were made to “address concerns of discrimination due to the current practice of separating gender by color of cap and gown.” He went on to say, in the letter, that he believed the change was "a proactive measure for the right reasons and should be made this year.”

When asked Wednesday why he decided to back away from the change, Bommersbach declined to go into detail.

“I will confirm that the students will get to choose if they want to wear blue or white cap and gowns,” he said. “At this point, that is all.”

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Campbell-Bohard and several others opposed to the initial change had taken their concerns to the Lompoc Unified School District board of education Nov. 14 with the hope that the board would step in and stop the move. The board did not formally discuss the matter that night, and there is no indication that the board was involved in the school’s decision to reverse course.

While several students expressed dissatisfaction with the initial shift to an all-blue graduation — including one student who wrote a column in the school’s student newspaper that disapproved of the move and advocated for putting the gown color choice in the hands of students — the letter from Bommersbach noted that several other students were supportive of having every student wear blue.

Although the gown colors will now be optional, the school still plans to move forward with other changes that were made for the 2018 commencement. Those will include the students walking out alphabetically, instead of in the traditional groups of two that were mostly male-female, and also having all the students sit together, instead of being separated into two distinct sections according to gender.

Lompoc High School’s 2018 graduation ceremony is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. June 7.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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