- Grand Valley High School bars student from wearing Mexican flag at graduation.
- Naomi Pena Villasano has started a petition at her school.
- “They told me it would be offensive.”
A young Mexican woman is fighting to be allowed to wear the Mexican flag for her graduation. Many are saying the school’s position is racist.
May is an important month for 18-year-old Naomi Pena Villasano. On the 16th, the school district will decide whether the senior at Grand Valley High School can walk at her graduation ceremony wearing a serape made from a combination of American and Mexican flags.
Grand Valley High student banned from wearing the Mexican flag at graduation
“They told me that it would be offensive (to wear the Mexican flag).» Her case will be discussed at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Garfield School District 16, in the Colorado.
There is no rule that forbidding wearing the flag, however, the student’s request was denied through an email, which said that if they allowed her to wear the flag other students could wear things like confederate flags, which would be offensive.
Naomi is not giving up
“My high school administration and superintendent have said ‘no’ twice. However, there are NO WRITTEN policies to the contrary. I will not allow my culture, heritage and nationality not to be represented,» she declared.
Pena Villasano is not giving up, she started a petition to protest the school’s policy. Before that she met with lawyers and sought advice from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Are they comparing the Mexican flag to the Nazi flag?
She is upset at the school’s characterization of her Mexican pride, “…it’s still in no way, shape or form OK to compare flags of nationality — especially the Mexican flag because that’s who I am — to the Nazi flag and the Confederate flag.”
Villasano is an exemplary student, member of the student council, in the Key Club, plays soccer, participates in the Upward Bound program and was once the captain of her volleyball team. She says it would betray her ideals to give in to pressure not to wear the sash when she receives her diploma. “I have nephews who live in this town who are graduating here, and I want to help change the system,” she said.
What does the school say?
The reasons for the School District’s refusal were set forth in an email sent to Villasano’s parents and released to the media. Garfield 16 Superintendent Jennifer Baugh clarifies that nothing prohibits students from wearing sashes or stoles during the graduation ceremony.
However, she believes that allowing Villasano to wear the Mexican flag sash could open too many doors and might even lead some to want to wear offensive symbols like the Confederate flag.
A historic change
Baugh explains in the email that typically all students wear to graduate are a cap and gown, and any sash or cord that represents their membership in nationally recognized organizations.
The superintendent says that if Villasano’s proposal had been raised at the beginning of the year they may have had time to find a solution. Both parties will defend their positions at the next School District Board of Directors meeting. Villasano will seek to make a historic change in a county with a Latino population of 30% and with schools full of Latino students.