Student told she couldn’t honor late mother with graduation cap design

Graduation cap controversy

CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - Rya Bullock, 19, lost her mother when she was a freshman. The senior wanted to honor her by adorning her cap with her mother’s picture and inspirational phrases at the Clermont Northeastern High School graduation.

The school district said it did not approve of the her actions, saying it sets a precedent that students can wear clothing that differentiates themselves from others. It was a decision that Clermont Northeastern High School said it didn’t want to be in a position to make.

But the long-standing policy is clear -- you are not allowed to decorate your graduation cap.

Bullock’s mother was 37 when she died of an overdose in 2016. Since then, life has been tough for Bullock.

“It’s been a struggle for the past 2 1/2 years ever since my mom, pretty much, passed away. I mean I’ve been homeless. I’ve been dealing with bad issues, family issues, burying my mom before my 16th birthday. It’s been hard,” she said.

Principal TJ Glassmeyer said he wished he could accommodate her. The school’s Facebook page sent out a notice on Tuesday saying seniors are not permitted to decorate their caps or wear anything outside their gowns other than school issued cords and stoles.

“I certainly understand her desire to honor her late mother and we respect that but once we’ve had other students in the graduating class who have lost parents and family members and loved ones ... when you make an exception for one, where do you draw the line?" said Glassmeyer.

Bullock said her family is outraged.

“She always made me laugh. She always showed me love and with her being around I knew that I could always dream of something," she said.

Roam the halls of Clermont Northeastern and you’ll see plenty of motivational messages. “Display Pride” caught Bullock’s attention.

“She would be so proud of me. This was my second diploma. She would be so proud," she said.

She has already graduated from a program at Live Oaks in Milford.

“I decided, hey, I’m going to get to work. I’m going to get these diplomas. Let me get some education in my head and we’d keep working hard," she said.

Don’t expect Bullock to slow down anytime soon. She’s moving full steam ahead with her education -- next up for her is UC Clermont to study pre-nursing.

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