- Cullman, Alabama

June 7, 2013

American Indian fined after wearing feather at Ala. high school graduation

Associated Press

ATMORE — An American Indian student says she’s being fined $1,000 for wearing a feather on her mortarboard when she graduated from high school in south Alabama in late May.

Chelsey Ramer, 17, told WPMI-TV she feels like she’s being discriminated against by her alma mater, Escambia Academy in Atmore.

Ramer is part of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, and the 17-year-old says she wore a feather at graduation last month to honor her heritage.

“Being honored with a feather for graduation is a wonderful experience,” her former teacher Alex Alvarez told the television station. “It’s a lot more than showing off your culture. It has ties into our spirituality as well.”

The school now is making Ramer pay a $1,000 fine to get her diploma and official transcript. She’s accused of violating school policy.

A school contract says students and staff are not allowed to wear extra items during graduation unless they’re approved in advance by the administration.

Ramer said she asked the school’s headmaster for permission to wear the feather and was denied. In response, Ramer didn’t sign the contract and wore the feather anyway.

“It was worth it. It means a lot to me,” she said.

The school headmaster didn’t return a message seeking comment Thursday.

A school newsletter thanked the Poarch Band in April for making more than $142,000 in donations to the academy.