Dean Holmes, a recent graduate of York Catholic High School in York, Pennsylvania, says he was pulled from his graduation procession on July 28 for wearing a mask that had ‘Black Lives Matter’ printed on it.
Holmes, who is Black, said that when he wore the masks during the practice sessions for the ceremony, teachers and administrators saw him wearing it but did not say anything about it. When the procession for the official ceremony began, the mask became a problem.
Principal Katie Seufert reportedly told Holmes to take the mask off and wear the face shield provided, but the teen said he preferred to keep his mask on.
Later, Holmes was approached by administrators who pulled him aside, saying, “Dean, we can get you another mask.”
Holmes remonstrated with the officials over wearing his mask until he saw his classmates heading into the church and feared he might miss the ceremony. He took his mask off, handed it to one of the teachers, and put on the mask the school provided.
“I sat through the rest of the ceremony very upset,” Holmes said. “It felt like another time York Catholic was trying to put me down, kind of make me feel smaller. Because in the past, there have been issues, too — of them trying to make me smaller, make me feel less like an individual. But this was graduation.”
In a letter to the Diocese of Harrisburg, Dean’s father John Holmes wrote that his son had been “discriminated against in plain sight for his race and prior civil rights activism.”
In a Facebook post, Dean’s mother June Holmes wrote, “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.”
In a response to the incident, the school claimed that Holmes had not put the Black Lives Matter mask on until “the last minute,” immediately before entering the church. The letter also read: “The decorum of York Catholic’s Baccalaureate and Graduation ceremonies follow the tradition that no messages are permitted on caps or gowns. Any graduate wearing a cap, gown, or mask with any message would have been asked to remove it.”