Janeth Jimenez and Jasmin Oropeza attend senior awards night for Highland High School students.

Highland High School parents were told their children cannot wear military stoles with their academic regalia during Thursday's graduation, having many believe the administration does not "see the importance" of these students' service.

Senior Jasmin Oropeza has been a member of the Navy's Delayed Entry Program for the past six months, having trainings twice a week. When she received her stole, she was excited because it represented all the hard work she has put in.

"I get home late and I work hard to work on my grades," she said.

She took a picture of her stole and posted it on social media, and a classmate reached out asking if Oropeza was allowed to wear it during graduation. According to Oropeza, the young man, a member of the Marines, said his mother asked to speak to the principal, Debra Vigstrom, to see if her son could wear his military stole to graduation. She was told no.

The two "got into it," and the mother "was escorted out," Oropeza said.

Oropeza's recruiter later went in to speak to a counselor about a student who wanted to join the Navy, and when he asked them about students not being allowed to wear stoles, the counselor said it was Vigstrom's decision.

Highland High School did not immediately respond to The Californian's request for comment.

Kern High School District Public Information Officer Erin Briscoe said beyond the traditional cap and gown, graduation attire is a decision made by the individual school site's administration.

Oropeza said she was "hurt" when she found out she could not wear her stole.

"The other students in the Navy with me and from the Marines they’re surprised and kind of hurt," she said. "We all got our sashes and want to wear them.

"It’s just a sash, I don’t understand what the big deal is," she added. Oropeza  pointed out that a friend from East Bakersfield High was allowed to wear a similar stole at EHS graduation. Students from South, West, Stockdale and Mira Monte high schools were seen wearing military stoles during their ceremonies as well.

Oropeza's mother, Janeth Jimenez, said the stoles represent a great sacrifice the students are making for their country and they should be able to wear them.

"She gets home late from the trainings she does and she’s tired and she still tries to do homework," Jimenez said. "For her to not be able to represent that really hurt. They’re going to be representing their country and (the school doesn't) see the importance of that."

Jimenez said she has talked about the issue with her coworkers and friends but has not reached out to the school.

Though she might not be able to wear her stole at graduation, Oropeza and Jimenez both hope the administration will change its mind in the future.

"We all have worked hard physically and mentally, all military branches, and I believe we have earned it just as much as an honor student has," Oropeza said.

"Even if she doesn’t get to wear it (tonight), I know where she's headed and I’m proud of her regardless," Jimenez said.

After she graduates, Oropeza said she leaves for boot camp June 25.

(47) comments


Back in the 1960's they didn't have stoles, sure would have liked to have worn one at my graduation. Great Idea/practice.


Yup that’s too bad. Last year my daughter graduated from HHS and she got a $180,000.00 scholarship from the Marines. Unfortunately the principal told the marine to wait outside during the ceremony and give it to April after the graduation. He wasn’t allowed to present during the graduation and during the ceremony April thought they forgot about her. She was stressed and sad. I don’t understand why the Marine was not allowed on stage? It was just wrong and disappointing

of all the silly things for people to wet their pants over....just graduate, move on and enjoy your life....Peace

She Dee

when I graduated from high school in bakersfield in the 70's the school said that if any of us wore anything over our robes, that we would not graduate. I decided to push the issue & proudly wore a white armband over my black robe & as I walked across the stage to accept my roll of paper, I raised my arm & clenched my fist to show the people that I was outraged by what my country had done in Vietnam & as a person who opposed the draft......I say GO FOR IT & wear what you feel is right & just as a person living in a free country. This country is going in reverse & trying to take away the rights of it's citizens....again! SHAME ON YOU! No one can stop a person from doing this type of thing. WEAR THEM & HAVE EVERYONE WEAR ONE WITH DIFFERENT SAYINGS. Make a stand or be a victim.


As a 1992 graduate of Highland, I’m disappointed in the position that the school has chosen to take. Not allowing the students to display their military stole is disrespectful to decision they have made to serve and to our country. It’s ironic that the school will allow their mascot bagpipers to walk down the aisles at graduation in kilts represeting another country but won’t allow US military stoles.


It’s not just highland high school, I go to Arvin high school and they’re also not allowing us to wear our military soles. I’m not allowed to wear my marine sole as well as many other students that have enlisted in other branches.

She Dee

Hinojos12345, Once upon a time, when a student met the course requirements, they were legally a high school graduate. So, why are the students not asking themselves WHAT CAN THEY DO TO US IF WE WEAR an achievement badge over our robes??? I ask the same thing....what can the school administrators do if a student chooses to ignore their illegal & unjust demands? Can they take away your credits & ruin your life by not giving you your diploma? Critical Thinking should be applied while we still have some freedoms left in this country.


This is ANOTHER example of the poor and lack of leadership at the KHSD. A competent leader would set the principal straight and not have allowed this to ever surface. Saying we let these decisions happen at a site level shows a lack of responsibility. KHSD should be ashamed - but they have no moral compass and report to no one. The board are puppets and they only promote from within. No positive change will ever happen. To future parents: save your money and pay for Garces or BCHS if at all possible.


The same thing happend with my son at Frontier High School! I emailed the Board of Education about it and only had a response from Jan Graves who was perplexed by the policy. I met with the principal and she refused to change the policy stating that only articles that were earned during the 4 years were to be worn. In particular, my son DID earn his during his 4 years as he enlisted in August of 2018 and attend every DEP meeting through the year. This is a ridiculous policy and MUST be changed.


Well obviously “Thank you for your service” doesn’t count at Highland. It’s no wonder kids are messed up and not ready for the real world


Knowing Ms V, I'm sure this has more to do with some other kid/kids wanting to wear something inappropriate, and in an attempt to squash the "well they get to wear it" argument, she was backed into a "ban them all" corner.


I would hope an educated person could come up with a better solution than banning these items.


Ms. V should be Ms. Fired - but wait it’s California and there is no accountability in education. CLETS and other breaches show they think and seem to be above the law.


Wear it anyway!! Tuck it underneath your gown and as they call your name untuck it and display it proudly!! What can they do then? NOTHING.


She needs to be replaced.


Just an FYI. This may come as a shock to some of you but Highland’s principal is NOT a liberal.


Then she is dumber than we thought. There is no reason to exclude this type of award.


Maybe she is just an Idiot!


BTW . . . JFK was the last (D) Conservative (never liberal). . . my first POTUS vote in 1960 (clue to my generation) . . . and predecessor Naval Officer to my same rank.
Highland accepts Federal Funds and supports military academics.
Ergo . . . they must allow and encourage the awards related to military programs as part of their curriculum . . . just as they allow other acaDemic awards--National Honor Society . . . etc.
They WILL allow the military stoles and any other Federal Program celebratory awards.
Semper Fortis . . . !


Errata--My error in posting the Antelope Valley Union Highland HS AFROTC site (salute to Edwards AFB).
It should have been the following, which is the logo shield of the Kern HS Highland Scotsman, with his 'stole' and quote celebrating . . . "education, military and workforce . . . ".


I sure wish I had you in my back pocket when I met with Frontier's principal. Maybe we all need to attend the Board Meeting and make this point! Thanks for your post.


Good-on-ya . . . !
Woulda . . . hopefully she got msg. Sent an email (cc'd BOS, KC Edu) w/comments. Once did back-up career night for Navy at Mtn HS,
Bravo Fortis . . . !.


As a 10 year United States Air Force Veteran and 1997 alum of HHS I’m completely disgusted with this principal. Principal Vigstrom must have been turned to hate the military at Chico State with all the other wackjobs to our North. Hopefully these students put the stoles on anyway tonight. Enjoy the bad press Principal!


I won't call this disgrace to the community a liberal. John F. Kennedy was a liberal. This is an America hating leftist. Military service is something to be proud of, to be cherished, to be saluted. My thoughts are the same as one person stated above. Carry it hidden, and stop as you mount the stage to put it on. Walk with pride, put the ball in the leftist's court. Shame on her.


And as I begin to post my comment to this board, I see a picture of the Bakersfield Californian front page showing a Muslim student wearing a hijab. Does THAT represent education in any way? NO! The principal of Highland sounds like she made an autonomous decision to deny these students the privilege of displaying the military stoles as symbols of dedication and hard work that they have put in. Is that not something that educators stress to students? That if you work hard and dedicate yourself to your goals, you will succeed in everything you do? If not, the education system is nothing like what it was when I was in school.


Vigstrom needs to embrace reality BEFORE her political agenda….


How many are going to show up with American Flags!


The excuse that its not related to education is not true, the educational value and college credits you receive from military service is verifiable and any veteran and show you their joint service transcripts. Also the fact that the earn a full tuition and board scholarship with there service should be honored as well! to not allow them to wear there military stole is a disservice to their commitment and dedication and should be remedied as soon as possible with clear communication by the adminstration




My earlier post was taken off. A principal that does not appreciate the service of the military in our country misses the point of who we are and what we stand for. My 7 graduates of Highland are all ashamed.




You have got to be kidding me. As a Marine Corps veteran and the recently retired county veterans service officer representing the nearly 47,000 veterans who call Kern County home, as well as the liaison representative for the Devil Pups Youth Program for America I find this extremely disturbing. The principal better have a absolutely rock solid explanation for this denial for these delayed entry teens. CSUB, BC and Taft College allowed stoles at theirs. I also find this very disrespectful not only of those who have served, in the past those currently serving but also people that I know who were killed in action people like Mike Foust, USMC my brother in law, killed in Vietnam, Jim Mills, Navy,son of former East High principal Mr. Mills, killed in Vietnam, and Paul Innocenzj, USMC, my friend killed in Beirut.


I'm with you 100%- this principal is an embarrassment to what we consider an educated administrator


Dick we need your help to get this policy changed. I tried to call in when you were on Scott Cox's show the other day, but was on hold for 20 min. and had to get to work. Please help - this is ridiculous.


I wish we could have had your call on the show. I was not aware of that. I spoke with District administration today. Let's work together to get this changed for the better. Thank you for the note.


Thank you for your service and weighing in. This is very disturbing and disrespectful to what we stand for as a country and community.


You have got to be kidding me. As the recently retired Kern County Veterans Service Officer, I represented the nearly 47,000 veterans who call Kern County home. As well as the Liaison Representative for the Devil Pups Youth Program for America, and a Marine Corps veteran. The Principal better have a rock solid explanation for not allowing these fine military delayed entry teens from wearing their stoles. We just watched CSUB, BC, and Taft College allow theirs. I view this as disrespectful for all who are serving, have served and were killed in action. Names like my brother in law Mike Foust, killed in Vietnam, Jim Mills (son of former East High Principal Mr. Mills) killed in Vietnam, and my friend Paul Innocenczi killed in Beirut.


I have had 7 children graduate from Highland and I am embarrassed that they have to call that place their alma mater. This principal is an example of hiring liberal worthless, no sense of civility or national pride. IT is all about their power and ability to control. This principal should be taken out of administration since she has not idea of what it means to lead.


Not only is highland forbidding military students from wearing their stoles, as a highland high student I was told that I was unable to wear a medal I had received for my time and dedication to the pltw engineering program for four years. I spent well over 100 hours outside of school dedicating my time to that program, helping it grow, and it not a huge deal but I'd like to be proud of my self and show others what I have achieved.


Liberalism 101


Tom Pasek: Ms Vigstrom owes the students, parents, and taxpayers a reason (not to be confused with an excuse) for her decision not to allow the military sashes. These students are an fine example of young adults who have found meaningful direction in their lives. This needs to be encouraged, not hidden.


Shame on Highland. Shame on the KHSD for not being the administrators they should be. At the end of the day, the KHSD could override this decision, but it's easier to shift all the blame to the school. site. Shameful.

Jerry Todd

Where did this Administrator come from? Certainly not a Bakersfield native, or the concepts of love of God and Country wouldn't be so strange. My son went to Highland and marched into commencement to the drone of a bagpipe band. Is that tradition gone too?


I'm assuming that this is some kind of County rule. If not, for this principle to banish these stoles is outrageous. It obviously is that there is some type of a personal issue here with this person & the board needs to intervene. She is also against military people & service. We (veterans) should let this person know how honorable this should be perceived.


Shameful Highland...If it were my child I'd tell them if they felt strongly enough I'd have it in my pocket under their gown and put it on while on stage. The applause would most likely be huge!!


Is bad enough that the schools indoctrinate our kids. Now they cannot wear Military Stoles? That is an achievement to be proud of. Sounds like someone in the school Administration doesn't like our military. If I was students I would wear mine anyway. Isn't right that they can do this on a very important day of a students life. God Bless the Graduates.

Mark Borba

The "adults" need to act like adults! The Administrator needs to rethink her decision. This recognition deserves the respect of all who will ultimately be protected by these students' service in our military. To quote that great movie: "YOU WANT ME ON THAT WALL...YOU NEED ME ON THAT WALL!"

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.