How To Ruin Your Graduation Day With Free Expression

Kids these days. So into their First Amendment rights.

1. Wear an eagle feather in your hair.

Chelsey Ramer, a Creek Indian and senior at Escambia Academy in Alabama, was forced to pay the school board $1,000 to release her diploma and transcripts after she wore an eagle feather to her graduation ceremony.

Ramer said she and her family will pay the fine imposed by the school board, which several months ago denied her request to wear the eagle feather during graduation as a nod to her Native American heritage.

“It was worth every penny of the thousand dollars,” Ramer said. “This is what I’ve been waiting on, and I feel like I have a right to wear it.” …

“My freshman year I went to graduation and students were wearing feathers and they didn’t get in any trouble,” she said. “I don’t think they asked permission. So we asked for permission about two or three months before graduation. (Headmaster Betty Warren) turned us down and said if we wore our feathers we would be pulled off the field.”

Ramer wasn’t pulled from the field, but she was given a fine for violating school policy. The headmaster has since left the school amicably, a school board chairman told the Atmore Advance.

2. Thank God in your valedictorian speech.

“Most people have never ever heard me speak much less see me smile,” said Remington Reimer, valedictorian at Texas’ Joshua High School and future U.S. Naval Academy student, in his graduation address last Thursday. He didn’t get to finish the speech.

Reimer was apparently told beforehand to refrain from mentioning freedom of speech or religion. When he broke that rule, his mic was cut. According to a ceremony attendee who emailed the Burleson Star, here’s what Remington said after the audio went out:

“We are all fortunate to live in a country where we can express our beliefs, where our mics won’t be turned off, as I have been threatened to be if I veer away from the school-censored speech I have just finished. Just as Jesus spoke out against the authority of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who tried to silence him, I will not have my freedom of speech taken away from me. And I urge you all to do the same. Do not let anyone take away your religious or Constitutional rights from you.”

His fellow students — the ones who could hear him — erupted in applause.

In South Carolina, another valedictorian broke a similar rule, ripping up his speech to recite the Lord’s Prayer. His mic was kept on.

3. Insult your school’s sports team.

Wesley Teague was the senior class president of Kansas’ Heights High School, but after one of his tweets riled up students and faculty, he was barred from most of the Class of 2013’s graduation activities.

From the Wichita Eagle:

[The tweet] prompted angry reactions from some classmates who said Teague was disrespectful to athletes, particularly underclassmen who coined the phrase and sometimes use the hashtag “#HeightsU” on tweets about Falcon football or other athletic endeavors.

Wichita State University dropped its football program after the 1986 season.

In a letter to his parents, school officials said Teague, a member of the track team, “aggressively [disrespected] many athletes.” He was allowed to attend commencement, but he was pulled from the speaking roster of a convocation ceremony and suspended for the rest of the school year.

Teague says his punishment was “completely unfair” and that his tweet was a joke — not an insult. “I only meant that ‘Heights U’ doesn’t exist because it doesn’t. We’re not a university,” he told reporters.

4. Twerk on campus.

Thirty-one high school students were suspended from Scripps Ranch High School in California after recording a “team twerk” video outside their sixth-period class. They were also banned from prom and commencement; according to school officials, they had violated a policy in the school handbook.

“At Scripps Ranch High school there is zero tolerance for students who cause major disruptions at school or school activities. Any student who causes a major disruption will receive a five (5) day suspension, a possible new school placement and may be arrested.”

Parents tried to appeal the principal’s decision, but a school district trustee upheld it, though he admitted that his “overall view of this ‘twerking incident’ is that I believe all parties, both students and administrators showed poor judgment.”

5. Expose your school’s unsanitary bathrooms.

Harold Shaw, salutatorian at Florida’s Wharton High School, had his mic cut during a commencement speech after going off topic, according to his principal.

“The principal had concerns because the first draft of the speech from the salutatorian was full of some things that were very inappropriate,” Hillsborough County School District spokesman Steve Hearty said Friday.

Shaw believes he was targeted, after he created a documentary exposing what he believed were unsanitary bathrooms at the school.

“The conditions are very unacceptable. And the fact it is, they’ve been denied attention again and again,” Shaw said.

Shaw was allowed to get his diploma, but told reporters he felt robbed.

“I put in the time, put in the school work,” he said. “I did anything I could to become #2 and that speech was taken away from me.”

6. Wear a military uniform.

Dave Anderson/Monadnock Ledger Transcript / Via ledgertranscript.com

Brandon Garabrant finished his studies early at ConVal Regional High School to enroll in the U.S. Marine Corps. But when he returned for his commencement ceremony, he was told he couldn’t wear his uniform in lieu of the traditional cap and gown, despite having completed boot camp by the time of the ceremony.

Jessie Garabrant on Wednesday told WBZ-TV that her son will sit in the audience if he’s not allowed to wear his uniform. She also said students are circulating a petition calling for Garabrant to graduate in his Marine uniform, though Pickering said he has not seen it.

Garabrant completed basic training in South Carolina on Friday and flew back to New Hampshire for the graduation on Saturday. He ultimately decided to keep the peace, wearing the cap and gown like the rest of his classmates.

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