Dean Holmes, a York, Pennsylvania, student who recently graduated from York Catholic High School, is speaking out after being pulled away from his graduation ceremony on July 28 and told to remove his “Black Lives Matter” face mask, before being allowed to rejoin his classmates.
“I sat through the rest of the ceremony very upset,” Holmes told the York Daily Record. “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.”
Holmes’s father, John Holmes, has written a letter to the Diocese of Harrisburg, slamming the incident where his son was “discriminated against in plain sight for his race and prior civil rights activism.”
“In my opinion, his health and safety were jeopardized when he was forced to remove his COVID-19 protective mask. Secondly, his freedom of expression was censored when he was compelled to remove his mask or face the very real possibility of not graduating. Third, York Catholic High did not issue any specific warnings about what was an “unacceptable “ mask or clothing etiquette but did release a flowery letter that extolled the virtues of York Catholic High’s commitment to diversity, but 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,” Holmes’s letter read, according to a Facebook post.
Dean Holmes told the news site that he had no issues during a practice session before the official ceremony. Teachers saw him wearing his Black Lives Matter mask and didn’t say anything to him. However, once the official procession began, teachers then began to react, prompting Principal Katie Seufert to apparently ask Dean to remove his mask as the students were given face shields to wear. Dean declined.
“Then they pulled me out of line and they said, ‘Dean, we can get you another mask’—the issue was definitely the Black Lives Matter on the mask,” he told the news site.
Dean declined another mask that was given to him, but as he saw his classmates heading in for the ceremony, he ultimately decided to remove his Black Lives Matter mask out of fear of missing the ceremony.
“You only get one high school graduation,” Dean said. “I wish that mine didn’t play out like this.”
York Catholic responded in a letter saying that two other graduates who chose to wear a “solid face mask with no writing in addition to the actual shield” provided by the school “sought permission in advance to do so.” Dean, they said, did not.