Documents reveal uproar over Lakota East graduation gowns decision

The Lakota East High School principal recently ordered on leave moved to change the school’s gender-specific graduation gown colors to all black, a decision for which the district later apologized, according to documents obtained by the Journal-News.

Traditionally, Lakota East’s commencement gowns have been black for boys and white for girls, using the school’s colors.

But first-year Principal Yejide Mack, who was placed on paid leave earlier this month, decided all of Lakota East’s more than 600 graduates would wear black.

Lakota school officials have not said why Mack was placed on a leave of absence. When asked Friday if the decision to switch the gown colors was involved in the leave, Rob Kramer, Lakota’s executive director of human resources, replied: “It is a personnel matter.”

A review of Mack’s personnel file by the Journal-News revealed the May 4 notice given to her by Kramer. It noted she will remain on paid leave “pending the conclusion of an investigation.”

While Kramer detailed the stipulations of Mack’s placement on indefinite leave, which includes prohibitions against being on school property, attending school events and communicating with staff or students without written permission, the document provides no reason for ordering the leave of absence.

ExploreAttorney claims unfair treatment of Lakota East HS principal placed on leave

Miller sent a message on April 28 to Lakota East families, obtained by the Journal-News, that said: “The decision for all Lakota East seniors to wear a black gown was made at the building level. At the district level, we learned about this change yesterday as well.

“We have already contacted our vendor and are doing everything we can to get white gowns to the seniors who ordered them. I am truly sorry that what should have been one more exciting step toward graduation turned into one of disappointment for some of you. Please know that we are doing everything possible to correct this.”

Mack has not responded to multiple messages seeking comment.

An April 28 email that appears to be from Mack, though is not signed by her, to parents and students said: “I would like to thank those students and parents who communicated feedback in a positive & constructive way concerning the color of the graduation gowns. After reading your email last evening, my first call upon arrival to the office this morning was to our gown provider informing them of the updated plan to switch back to white gowns for the students who ordered them.

“There has been an effort this year to revive our East SPIRIT and the change to all black gowns was made for simply our graduates to continue to exemplify this at graduation.

“It is my intent to be transparent by providing factual information regarding the change, as well as reduce the spread of misinformation. Again, thank you to those who communicated constructive feedback.”

On May 3, one day before Mack was ordered on leave, she wrote in an email to Lakota East students and families: “Again, I want to apologize for any disappointment this may have caused.”

Mack’s attorney, Kelly Mulloy Myers, has previously told the Journal-News that “there is no legitimate basis for placing Dr. Mack on a leave of absence.”

Lakota East will hold two graduation ceremonies on Wednesday at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.

Graduating seniors were scheduled to pick up their commencement gowns this past Wednesday, according to Lakota East’s website.

“We will be returning to the traditional gown practices,” it said. “Female students will be wearing white gowns. Any female student who received a black cap and gown should return these in items in exchange for a white set.”