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First Amendment Rights Violated of a High School Senior

As a former-teacher I often wonder how educators (specifically administrators) can act so uneducated and idiotic. I mean, a school suspending a kindergarten child for pointing a finger (NO, not THE finger) at another child as a make-believe gun is not cause for suspension. You’ve heard the expression “guns don’t kill…” Well, guaranteed “pointed fingers don’t kill”.

High schools are continuing to find ridiculously creative ways to destroy graduations for their students. In the latest and, one of the most heinous, Chelsea Ramer was denied her diploma, final transcript and fined $1000 for wearing a feather in her graduation cap to symbolize the culture and spirituality of her Native American tribe.

Ramer didn’t wear the feather as a form of protest. And, she wasn’t sneaky about her proposed tribute. She and tribal leaders told the Escambia Academy High School of her plans months in advance of graduation. The school’s response was to require that all students sign a contract agreeing they would not wear “extraneous items during graduation exercises unless approved by the administration.” If they didn’t sign the contract they wouldn’t be allowed to participate in graduation.

Ramer didn’t sign the contract yet she was allowed to take part in her graduation. She was still fined and denied her diploma and transcript. Even if she had signed the contract the punishment certainly doesn’t fit the crime. To put it bluntly the denial of her First Amendment rights was criminal.

In an ironic aside the school’s headmaster Betty Warren was abruptly replaced after graduation. That was certainly appropriate, though the school should have apologized to Ramer, rescinded the fine (which to date they haven’t) and given her the diploma and transcript they withheld.

Far too many schools overreact rather than deal with such incidents in an intelligent manner. Tribal leaders attempted but were “denied requests to speak with the school about the issue” in the months leading up to graduation. What kind of lesson does this teach students who have legitimate requests they want discussed? The administration clearly dropped the ball in this case and should rescind the discriminatory punishment against Ramer.

I have heard the expression “those who can’t … teach.” Well, as a former teacher who met his share of inept administrators I’d like to amend the expression to “those who can’t teach become administrators.” To add to that, in many instances, “incompetent ones.”

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2 Responses to First Amendment Rights Violated of a High School Senior

  1. Kent Bunn says:

    One small problem with this story. It’s a private/non-government school. So the first amendment doesn’t actually apply in this case, since it precludes the government from limiting your speech.

  2. It’s clearly discriminatory so the 14th Amendment would apply. There are also due process issues since members of the tribe were denied a meeting to discuss the issue.

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