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Maine students fight to wear Army sash at high school graduation

POLAND (WGME) - A graduation sash is stirring controversy as students at Poland Regional High School get ready to walk down the aisle for their diplomas this Sunday. Military students tell us the school won't let them wear their sashes over their gowns as symbols of their pending service to the Army.

"I just don't think it's fair," senior ShaiAne Belinski told us.

Belinski says she's hurt, confused, and disappointed. She got the sash from her Army recruiter to wear at graduation, but now her principal won't let her wear it.

"It's upsetting. I worked really hard this year. My motivation has been the Army. In order to get into the Army, you have to have a diploma," Belinski said.

Belinski says her principal told her only sashes directly connected to the school's academic programs, like National Honor Society, are allowed. But Belinski's mother Tina Kelly says her daughter wouldn't even be graduating if it wasn't for the Army.

"They do allow the military recruiting officers in the schools and allow them to be there to help with education. To me it is an academic relation," Kelly said.

That's why Belinski says she's fighting so hard to be able to wear it.

"I don't see what harm it's going to do; who's it going to upset other than me if I don't get to wear it?" Beliski said.

So before she leaves Maine for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for basic training, she hopes her principal will change her mind.

"She said we do get recognition. We get to lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance, but that's not the same as being able to march in and represent what you're going to be doing the rest of your life," Beliski told us.

Late Tuesday afternoon, RSU 16 Superintendent Tina Meserve told CBS 13 in a statement, "The dress code at graduation has long been established at PRHS, celebrating the students' achievements at our high school and Lewiston Regional Technical Center.  Students' future plans are announced when their names are read out loud so we can celebrate the next chapter in their lives."

She also said, "Students are also allowed to decorate their graduation caps to celebrate where they are going after high school."

An Army spokesperson said he doesn't know how many schools allow students to wear the sashes.