A high school graduate in Alabama is being denied her diploma after being fined $1,000 for wearing a feather reflecting her Native American heritage.
“I don’t think it’s fair at all,” 17-year-old Chelsey Ramer told WPMI-TV. “I feel like its discrimination.”
Ramer, a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, wore the feather while taking part in the graduation ceremony at Escambia Academy High School in defiance of school policy forbidding “extraneous items” from being worn without school permission.
The school sent a contract for graduating seniors to sign before the May 23 event, but Ramer told the station she never signed it. Escambia is now withholding her diploma until she pays the fine.
“About two months ago, me and the other Indian seniors from the graduating class asked our headmaster if we could wear the feathers on our caps,” Ramer told Indian Country Today Media Network. “She told us ‘no’ and that if we did, she would pull us off the field.”
However, Ramer attended and walked in the ceremony without incident. Indian Country Today reported that the headmaster who denied Ramer’s request, Betty Warren, has been replaced by David Walker, who coaches Escambia’s girl’s basketball team.
“He said if it was up to him, he would give me my diploma,” Ramer said to Indian Country Today. “But he had to go through the board to get it approved.”
Watch WPMI’s report on Ramer’s fine, aired Friday, below.