It was their last act together as a class. On Saturday, June 1, Per-shing County High School’s newest grads tossed their caps sky-ward, a tradition started by the US Naval Academy 107 years ago.
Beginning with the Class of 1912, the Academy changed its re-quirements. They would no longer require graduates to serve two years in the fleet as midshipmen before earning the rank of officer.
Instead, the Navy commissioned the new graduates on the spot. Of-ficials gave them officer’s caps — so the grads tossed their old headware. It caught on. Generations later, sitcom star Mary Tyler Moore hurled her hat to symbolize a jettison of the past and rite of passage to the future.
But it could all go caput. Several years ago, in Britain, a runaway cap struck a grad in the head. She matriculated to the ER for stitch-es. Since then, some Brits have launched a movement to ban the cap toss. Their cause hasn’t crossed the pond yet. But it could.
Closer to home, Yale’s 1984 ceremonial cap toss capsized when a bonnet blackened a guest’s eye. She sued the school for negligence. But the judge found her argument capricious.
“A mortarboard is neither inherently dangerous or more likely to cause injury if improperly used than any other angular object,” he said. “Thus, it is not a dangerous instrumentality.”
So on Saturday night, 54 graduates tossed their caps in the air with joy. A red and black tsunami rose to the ceiling and thudded on the gym floor. The grads captured their hats and walked offstage with tassels swaying, 12 years of captivity at an end.