In Chardon, Ohio, two students are refusing to wear the cap and gown at graduation, so the schools says they can’t walk on stage with the other graduates.

It’s turned into an ugly issue because the two boys want to wear their military uniforms on stage instead — Will McDonnell is a Marine and Tony Workman is an Army National Guardsman. The boys say they will wear their uniforms, and if they can’t pick up their diplomas on stage, they’ll just stand at their seats when their names are called.

The boys’ families are appalled at the school’s decision, and have pushed the issue in the press. That brought all the usual suspects out of the woodwork to criticize the principal, Doug Delong, claiming he’s “unpatriotic,” or hates the military, or whatever fits their narrow-minded agendas. To the contrary, Delong is preserving respect for the school’s rules — if he lets Will and Tony skip the cap and gown, he’ll set a precedent for other kids to wear whatever they want — and he’s gone out of his way to devise a plan that includes honoring the boys for joining our armed forces.

Here’s the school district’s official release:

The Chardon Schools have recently been the subject of news stories for upholding the High School’s tradition of donning a cap and gown to receive a high school diploma. Two students who have recently completed military boot camp have challenged this decision.

When this issue was first brought to our attention we developed a compromise that would allow these two young men to be honored as members of our nation’s military and as graduating seniors of the Chardon High School class of 2008.The plan was that the two graduating seniors would join the official Color Guard in their full military uniform and lead the graduation processional into the ceremony. After the salute to our Nation’s flag they would be introduced and recognized for their military accomplishments. They would then join their fellow classmates in cap and gown to be honored for their educational achievements.

This would allow these two individuals to be honored for their separate achievements, while at the same time providing for the traditional observation of wearing a cap and gown to receive a diploma.

This practice has long been a show of respect to fellow classmates, teachers, parents, and the community that has provided them with a public education.

It is unfortunate that this compromise has been viewed by some as being unpatriotic. This was not the intent.

We believe that wearing your school’s cap and gown to receive your diploma is a show of respect to your school, fellow classmates, and for the public education you have been privileged to receive.

When I discussed this on WBT last night, most of the callers agreed that the school administration is handling this in just the right way.

One caller, however, debated the notion of honoring Will and Tony’s “military achievements” at all: “What have they achieved? So far, all they’ve done is survived boot camp. It’s not like they’ve done an extended tour in Iraq, or put in a decade of service.”

Apparently, there’s something these two didn’t learn in boot camp — do what you’re told to do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t question authority, but you have to be willing to accept the consequences. Moreover, the concept works better in civilian life, where the penalties are much less harsh than in the military, which tends to frown on anyone refusing to follow the rules.

After graduation, when they report for duty, let’s see how well it works out when Will and Tony tell their platoon leader that they want to make their own fashion choices.