Police escorted an 18-year-old merit scholar out of his Elk Grove, California, high school graduation Tuesday for refusing to remove his Kente cloth, a traditional Ghanaian silk and cotton fabric.
Nyree Holmes, now a graduate of Cosumnes Oaks High School, explained on Twitter that he was approached by Matt Mason, the school's director of student activities, just before he walked on stage, the Atlanta Black Star reported.
Mason demanded that Holmes hand over his Kente cloth. When the student declined, Mason sought police assistance.
"I get to the stage and I think I’m home clear," Holmes tweeted. "I go through shaking all the hands and smiling feeling as if I won, then when I get to the stairs I see 3 sheriffs."
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Holmes was escorted out of the Sleep Train Arena by three Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies before he could received his diploma.
"I wanted to wear my kente cloth as a representation of my pride in my ancestors, to display my cultural and religious heritage," Holmes told the Atlanta Black Star.
Elk Grove Unified School District officials released a statement Friday, which expressed "regret" about "how events unfolded in this instance," but also pointed out that Holmes ignored "repeated requests to remove unauthorized non-school award regalia."
The statement also countered that school officials' actions were prompted by guidelines about "appropriate graduation ceremony attire," which had been communicated to students and their families.
"It is within the District’s discretion and prerogative to impose rules for graduation ceremony dress code and attire which apply generally to all students, and which do not discriminate against any specific student viewpoint," a statement said in part.
It continued: "That rule and standard has been in place for decades."
Holmes was later able to get his diploma and take a photograph with the school's principal.
The Atlanta Black Star reported that Holmes plans to attend California State University, Fullerton starting this fall. He will major in cinema arts so as to fulfill his "dream of becoming an impactful film director."