LIVE OAK, Fla. — Growing up in a military family, Saturday was going to be a special moment for Robert Warrlock.
Not only was Warrlock going to graduate high school, but as an active military member he was hoping to walk in his dress uniform.
However, Warrlock said after speaking with Suwannee High Principal Ronnie Gray during graduation practice last week, he was told that would not be the case, even through Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last year a bill that said active military members could do just that in high school graduation ceremonies.
“He said no,” Warrlock said. “You have to wear your cap and gown because we don’t want no individuals.”
Warrlock said he sent Gray information about the state law to no avail. He added appeals to Superintendent Ted Roush also did not change the decision, which led to him not walking at his graduation ceremony.
Roush said he has received notice that a complaint has been filed with the Florida Department of Education about the incident and therefore was limited in what he could discuss about the incident.
However, Roush did say that he did not receive enough notice to properly weigh the circumstances and allow the change.
“Proper protocol was not timely considered,” Roush said, adding he was not aware of any previous discussions between Warrlock and Gray. “We’re not looking to ignore state law. We’re not looking to do anything in opposition of what, legally, a student or students are allowed to do.
“If you’re going to deviate from the traditional protocol, there’s certainly a proper way of going about doing that.”
Without that change, Warrlock missed out on celebrating the accomplishment of graduating high school with his classmates. Rather, he sat in the stands at Langford Stadium in his uniform.
“Graduation, it’s a big thing,” he said, adding that the desire to wear his uniform was to honor that commitment and accomplishment. “It shows honor to my family and to the nation and to show other people the accomplishment that I made last summer and throughout my senior year that I worked really hard.
“It’s really hard.”