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Cultural Tie Gets in the Way Of Graduation


Md. Boy Wearing Bolo Is Denied a Diploma

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 10, 2005



Thomas Benya wore a braided bolo tie under his purple graduation gown this week as a subtle tribute to his Native American heritage.

Administrators at his Charles County school decided the string tie was too skinny. They denied him his diploma, at least temporarily, as punishment.

The bolo, common in contemporary American Indian culture, is not considered a tie by his public school in Pomfret. If Benya wants the diploma, he will have to schedule a conference with the administrators.

What his parents say they want is an apology from Maurice J. McDonough High School for embarrassing their son and failing to respect the Cherokee background of his father's ancestors.

"The schools in Charles County are asking him to ignore his heritage," Marsha Benya said as she turned to face her 17-year-old son. "I want you to be proud of it."

"I am proud of it," he said, sitting in her real estate office in Waldorf, where he plans to work this summer before enrolling at the College of Southern Maryland.

The high school is sticking to its policy. The dress code is mandatory for seniors who choose to participate in the graduation ceremony. And Benya was told during a dress rehearsal Tuesday that his black bolo with a silver and onyx clasp the size of a silver dollar was "not acceptable."

"We have many students with many different cultural heritages, and there are many times to display that," said school district spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson.

"But graduation is a time when we have a formal, uniform celebration. If kids are going to participate, they need to respect the rules."

Controversies over student attire at graduation are perennial, and school districts try to avoid confusion by sending letters to parents and seniors months in advance. In Prince George's County, for example, graduating seniors are told "they are not to wear any kind of additional accents," said schools spokesman John White.

"We set the standard to make sure all our ceremonies are formal and respectful," he said.

In March, Benya's high school sent a letter to parents and seniors explaining that "adherence to the dress code is mandatory," with the word mandatory in bold and underlined. For girls: white dresses or skirts with white blouses. For boys: dark dress pants with white dress shirts and ties.

That left Benya's classmates free to wear bright orange, red and striped ties under their gowns at the ceremony Wednesday at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro. One senior girl wore a headscarf and long pants for religious reasons.

"The First Amendment protects religion, and we do everything possible to honor that," O'Malley-Simpson said. "There is nothing that requires us to follow everyone's different cultures."

The courts have ruled that students have limited rights to express themselves at school as long as their behavior is not disruptive. A 1969 Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines, sided with students who wanted to wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War.

David Rocah, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said there are limits to those rights. Carrying political placards or wearing a clown suit to graduation would presumably be disruptive. The question, he said, is whether a bolo tie under a gown is disruptive.

"There's nothing wrong with wanting graduation to be a formal occasion," he said, "but the idea that everyone should look the same -- they're not all the same."

Rocah called the school's interpretation a "narrow and cramped view of personal autonomy."

Benya grew up hearing stories about his paternal grandmother's father and grandfather, who lived in dismal conditions on a Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma. He attends powwows and has worn an heirloom turquoise and silver bracelet for as long as he can remember.

He favors black clothes and prefers working backstage with lights and sound to performing in plays. He said he wasn't looking to cause a scene.

"It's my way of relating back to my past and showing who I am," he said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20...AR2005060901664.html

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Montana Leader Defends Bolo Ties


Governor Backs Md. Teen Denied Diploma



"In Montana and anyplace in Indian country, a bolo tie is dressed up. A tie is a tie," Gov. Brian Schweitzer says.

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 11, 2005

A Charles County high school's decision to deny a diploma to a senior who wore a bolo tie to graduation didn't offend just the student and his family. Montana's governor is mighty annoyed, too.

"To have some high school say that a bolo tie is not a tie is an outrage," said Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who called The Washington Post yesterday after reading an article about 17-year-old Thomas Benya.

"In Montana and anyplace in Indian country, a bolo tie is dressed up," he said. "A tie is a tie."

Schweitzer, who has a collection of more than 30 string ties, called to encourage Benya yesterday and is sending him a Montana state bolo.

The Waldorf teenager first wore his black, braided tie to a graduation rehearsal Tuesday as a symbol of his Native American roots. His paternal grandmother's father and grandfather were born on a Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma.

But the principal at Maurice J. McDonough High School said the skinny tie with a silver clasp did not meet the school's definition of a tie. Benya wore it anyway. When he tried to collect his diploma after the ceremony Wednesday, he was told to schedule a conference with school administrators. Benya's parents said they are waiting for an apology from the school system.

The question of whether a bolo tie is a tie has been tricky to navigate, even in Western states where they are common attire. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), for instance, often wears one during television interviews. But in that state's legislature, the coat-and-tie requirement allows string ties on the floor of the Senate but not the House.

Former Colorado senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, an American Indian and a jewelry designer, is perhaps one of the most well known bolo boosters. He said yesterday he remembers asking then-House Speaker Jim Wright for permission to break with tradition in 1987.

"It was never contested. No one ever complained," Campbell said.

"It seems to me that if the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate give latitude to members of the highest body in the land, a high school shouldn't be so uptight to deny a kid his cultural right to wear a different type of neckwear," he said.

The school system might reconsider the bolo's status for the next graduation.

"Do I think the schools might take a look at it next year? Sure. Will they change it? I don't know," system spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson said. "The incident will give principals something to think about."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20...AR2005061001829.html
Someone needs to Make A List and Check that shit Twice.

It seems some are too willing to forget, forgive and let that shit go for the sake of being nice.

In other words, this type of stuff really pisses me off! Little silly stuff... Yes, JWC, CONfused Dominance is right. Unfortunately, too many Subjugatees are too damn confused their damn selves.

Don't they know that most of these White Americans are just "people of their times"? I mean, seriously... When really was the Great White Revival? I mean, White People just got Saved and Sanctified at the Church of Civil Rights... Right?

They all Got Religion and they Sin No More?
The things they used to do, they don't do no more? So stuff like this is just a little "backslidin'"? Forgive me, Lord, for I know not what I do?

Yeah, they got religion. They Just Got Religion and, let them tell it, their the preachers now!!


This Message Has Been Brought To You By:
I TIRED OF THIS SHIT PRODUCTIONS!
quote:

......"I mean, seriously... When really was the Great White Revival? I mean, White People just got Saved and Sanctified at the Church of Civil Rights... Right?

They all Got Religion and they Sin No More?
The things they used to do, they don't do no more? So stuff like this is just a little "backslidin'"?

This Message Has Been Brought To You By:
I TIRED OF THIS SHIT PRODUCTIONS!


Very good! Ascerbic, analogy-dead on, witty and an astute assessment. hah! tfro

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