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Graduate's Choice: Remove Mask or Miss Ceremony

School says no written messages are allowed at graduation
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2020 4:46 PM CDT

(Newser) – "Are you still not hearing us," John Holmes asked rhetorically during an interview Sunday. Last week, his son was told he could not take part in the procession at his high school graduation in Pennsylvania unless he took off his Black Lives Matter mask. School officials offered Dean Holmes another mask, but he didn't want it, the York Daily Record reports. He didn't want to remove the mask he was wearing, either, but with his classmates filing into church for the ceremony, he handed it to the principal and joined them. "I sat through the rest of the ceremony very upset," Dean said. "It felt like another time York Catholic was trying to put me down, kind of make me feel smaller. Because in the past, there have been issues, too—of them trying to make me smaller, make me feel less like an individual. But this was graduation."

York Catholic High School answered John Holmes' complaint by saying that school tradition permits no written messages at the ceremony. "Any graduate wearing a cap, gown, or mask with any message would have been asked to remove it," the statement said, per the Daily Record. It's hard to see what harm wearing a Black Lives Matter mask would have done, the head of the state's Human Relations Commission said, though the school is entitled to set dress codes. Maybe this would have been the time to make an exception. "It's a very transformative moment," Chad Dion Lassiter said. "It's a moment in which some of the traditional norms may have to go by the wayside temporarily or need to be revamped altogether." Dean Holmes, who will attend New York University in the fall, is worried that this is how he'll remember the ceremony. "You only get one high school graduation," he said. "I wish that mine didn't play out like this." (A fast-food employee was fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter mask.)

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