High school grad Chelsey Ramer is learning the hard way that standing up for what you believe isn’t always an easy path to take.
The 17-year old high school student at Escambia Academy High School in Atmore, Alabama was denied her diploma and given a $1000 school fine for proudly wearing an eagle feather in her graduation cap. Wearing the feather was important to the Native American student as it’s a symbol of her cultural heritage. Instead it was viewed as an act against the headmaster who also is withholding her high school transcripts until the fine is paid.
Four-years ago, other Native Indian seniors wore eagle feathers in their caps without any negative consequences so Ramer and three other friends thought they’d do the same thing and asked the headmaster, Betty Warren. Warren told them they couldn’t wear anything on their caps and gowns and followed up by issuing a contract stating this and the consequences to the graduating students. Ramer didn’t sign it.
“I feel like this wasn’t fair. It felt like it wasn’t legal,” Ramer told media. “It really did hurt my feelings. I have watched others wear it and I looked forward to it my whole four years there. Now when it was my turn, [they said] I couldn’t.”
Deciding showing pride for her heritage is more important than the threat of no diploma, Ramer went ahead with her plan and had a friend put the eagle feather in the tassel of her cap. One of her friends wore an eagle necklace and the other two decided to play it safe by not wearing anything. Ramer was the only one punished and although she wasn’t made a spectacle of she wasn’t given her diploma.
Other people are also upset Ramer didn’t get her diploma. Alex Alvarez, a former teacher of Ramer’s and family friend, thinks the school has no right to withhold Ramer’s diploma or transcripts.
“I think this is ridiculous. If they took the time to understand and respect the differences in individuals, this would have never happened,” he said. “We don’t have much left as Indian people, to give a child an eagle feather as an achievement should be adhered to.”
Ramer did try to talk to the headmaster but she’s been let go and her office was already cleared out. As of yet, Ramer still doesn’t have her diploma.
Can anyone say discrimination? Perhaps that’s a course Betty Warren should take. [ Source ]