Native American Teen Fined $1K for Graduation Feather
Chelsey Ramer won't get diploma until she pays
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Suggested by Ghille
Posted Jun 4, 2013 9:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – Chelsey Ramer, a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, wanted to wear an important symbol of her Native American heritage when she graduated from her Alabama high school last month: an eagle feather. But the principal of Escambia Academy denied her request; soon after the school distributed a dress code contract (which prohibits "extraneous items" worn during graduation) that seniors had to sign in order to walk during the ceremony. Chelsey didn't sign, walked anyway—feather attached to her cap's tassel—and now she's been fined $1,000, which she must pay if she wants to get her diploma and transcripts.

"I don't think it's fair at all. I feel like it's discrimination," the 17-year-old says. Her tribal teacher points out that though the school is private, it is still required to follow the federal American Indian Religious Freedom Act, reports Indian Country Today Media Network. Chelsey tells Local 15 the principal was fired after the incident, thought it hasn't been confirmed that the departure is related to the feather issue. She says she's waiting to see if the school board reverses the decision and is also seeking legal counsel.