Dean Holmes donned the mask prior to the July 28 ceremony at York Catholic High School in York, Penn. In a lengthy Facebook post, his father, John Holmes, said his son was pulled out of the graduation procession line by the school’s principal and forced to remove the covering.
“In my opinion his health and safety were jeopardized when he was forced to remove his Covid-19 protective mask,” John Holmes wrote. “Secondly, his freedom of expression was censored when he was compelled to remove his mask or face the very real possibility of not graduating.”
The school said it gave everyone a face shield in lieu of a mask. Two other graduates chose to wear masks and sought permission before doing so, it said.
The post also listed alleged racist incidents Dean Holmes was subjected to by school administrators, including when he wrote an essay for English class but wasn’t allowed to read it at a speech contest because it “was too controversial.”
“As a parent I will not stand for my son being humiliated publicly, having his basic human dignity crushed on what should have been one of the happiest days of his young life,” John Holmes said. “My son literally was discriminated against in plain sight based on his race and his prior civil rights activism, and this latest action is part of a pattern and practice of discrimination at York Catholic and it cannot stand unchallenged.”
He added the “capricious action taken against my son demonstrates that York Catholic High School has miles to go before they can put the ugliness of unconscious bias and racism to sleep.”
Messages to the Homles family were not immediately returned.
In a statement on its website, the school said its graduation ceremonies prohibit the wearing of caps or gowns with messages, which now includes masks. The school said Dean Holmes was asked to remove his mask privately, away from the other graduates and guests.
“The graduate mentioned in the statement by the parent did not seek permission to wear a face mask in addition to the face shield, nor was the face mask worn at all during the 45 minutes prior to the processional portion of the ceremony,” the school said. “It was not until the last minute, right before entering the church, that the face mask with writing was put on.”