"That's like his badge of honor": School wouldn't let teen wear military sash at graduation

/ CBS News

A New Jersey high school senior joining the U.S. Marines was denied the opportunity to wear his military sash at graduation. His parents told CBS New York that the school principal even threatened to have their son escorted out by police.

Graduating from Point Pleasant Boro High School was supposed to be a happy milestone for 18-year-old Billy Borowsky. And joining the Marines has been his lifelong dream.

His sister served, and in the sixth grade, he even hung the American and Marine flags over his bed. His recruiter gave him a red sash to put his pride on display when getting his diploma.

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But his father Bill Borowsky Sr. said a few days before graduation, the school told his son they would not let him wear the sash. Principal Kurt Karcich told the family that graduates cannot decorate their cap or gown — and there are no exceptions.

"He said 'well if I do it for the military, I have to do it for all other groups and organizations that make requests,'" the father told CBS New York.

"Here's an 18-year-old kid that signed his name to an eight-year contract to serve our government, our country … put his life on the line for our freedoms and it was very disappointing. I really felt the administration was minimizing that commitment to this country."

Dreams = reality for Billy Borowsky this summer when he starts w the @USMarineCorps but @PtBoroSchools @PointBoroHS said he couldn’t display his badge of honor – a military sash – during graduation. How his family wants to change that for others now #NJ @CBSNewYork pic.twitter.com/F2HNuXfIqu

— Lisa Rozner (@LisaRoznerTV) July 3, 2019

Billy's parents said the principal also searched his son before the ceremony, alongside two officers to make sure he didn't have the sash.

The father told CBS New York the school official then threatened: "If you do it you're going to get removed from the ceremony."

"He did the right thing. He respected the school policy and he wasn't respected in return," his mother Lori Coe said.

Vincent Smith, the school's superintendent, declined to be interviewed on camera, but said this is the school policy and it's not changing.

Over the phone, he told CBS New York that Billy and another student entering the armed forces were recognized during the ceremony and there was a standing ovation.

"The ovation was nice, but the first thing he did was put that sash on after the ceremony. He's proud of that. That's like his badge of honor," the teen's father added.

Assemblymen Ryan Peters and Ed Thomson said they are drafting legislation that would allow all students to wear their sashes at graduation. "They're going to defend our country. That should be lauded not discouraged not discriminated against in any way shape or form," Thomson said.

First published on July 3, 2019 / 4:44 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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