Chelsey Ramer is being fined $1,000 and being denied her diploma and transcripts after wearing an eagle feather attached to her mortarboard, an action the high school she attended, Escambia Academy High School, explicitly forbid. And while Ramer claims this punishment is “discrimination,” perhaps its just the opposite: a generic punishment for a generic crime.
After all, Ramer, a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, attempted to appeal the ban of students wearing “Extraneous items” and the school headmaster considered it and denied it.
“About two months ago, me and the other Indian seniors from the graduating class asked our headmaster if we could wear feathers on our caps,” Ramer told Indian Country Today Media Network. “She told us ‘no’ and that if we did, she would pull us from the field.”
Nevertheless, Ramer deliberately broke the rules because the feather was so important to her. “Being honored with a feather for graduation is a wonderful experience. It’s a lot more than showing off your culture. It has ties into our spirituality as well,” said Alex Alverez, Ramer’s former teacher to WMPI-TV.
“It was worth it,” says Ramer, who is appealing the fine. “It means a lot to me.”
“It was worth every penny of the thousand dollars,” she told the Atmore Advance. “This is what I’ve been waiting on, and I feel like I have a right to wear it.”
Of course, inventing traditions and expecting school policy to accept them is a bit of a stretch. After all, the rule applied to all students, and mortarboard adornment has never been a religious tradition.
Nevertheless, Alvarez feels differently. “I think this is ridiculous. If they took the time to understand and respect the differences in individuals, this would never have happened. We don’t have much left as Indian People, to give a child an eagle feather as an achievement should be adhered to.”