Native American student denied diploma after wearing tribal feather in her mortarboard

Officials are withholding Chelsey Ramer's diploma and transcripts until she pays a $1,000 fine

Published June 3, 2013 8:19PM (EDT)


Alabama high school graduate Chelsey Ramer was fined $1,ooo and denied her diploma and transcripts after wearing an eagle feather attached to her mortarboard as a symbol of her Native American heritage.

Ramer is a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, and had previously attempted to appeal the school policy banning students from wearing "extraneous items" with the school's headmaster, but her request was denied. "About two months ago, me and the other Indian seniors from the graduating class asked our headmaster if we could wear the feathers on our caps,” Ramer told Indian Country Today Media Network. “She told us ‘no’ and that if we did, she would pull us off the field.”

Ramer wore the feather anyway, saying it was important to her to represent her heritage. "Being honored with a feather for graduation is a wonderful experience. It's a lot more than showing off your culture. It has ties into our spirituality as well," Ramer's former teacher Alex Alvarez told WMPI-TV.

Now, more than a week since the graduation ceremony took place, Escambia Academy High School is still withholding Ramer's diploma. Ramer has appealed the fine and may seek legal counsel, but says she does not regret the decision to wear the feather in her cap: "It was worth it. It means a lot to me," she said.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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