Student Forced To Remove Black Lives Matter Mask At Graduation Ceremony In Pennsylvania

by : Emily Brown on :
Student Forced To Remove Black Lives Matter Mask At Graduation Ceremony In PennsylvaniaWGAL TV/YouTube/June Holmes/Facebook

A father has lashed out at a Pennsylvania school after his son was forced to remove his Black Lives Matter face mask during his graduation ceremony. 

Dean Holmes graduated from York Catholic High School in York on July 28, but his special day was tainted when the school’s principal pulled him away from his fellow students and told him to take off his face mask, which was black and had the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ written in gold letters across it.


Another teacher had previously told Dean to take off his mask, and when the principal repeated the request as the graduating students were lining up for the ceremony, the teenager obliged out of fear he would not be allowed to go up on stage.

You can see more of Dean’s story here:


York Catholic school had opted to give every student a face shield instead of a mask for the ceremony, but in a lengthy post on Facebook, Dean’s father John claimed the school ‘did not issue any specific warnings about what was an ‘unacceptable’ mask or clothing etiquette.’


Dean told CNN:

I was so mad. I was shaking during the graduation, tapping my leg on edge… when it was over, I couldn’t believe it.

Black Lives Matter is a statement that my life matters. It has nothing to do with politics, it’s just a basic human rights issue.

Graduate asked to remove Black Lives Matter mask<a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fb&set=a.10154468929065152"></a>

In telling Dean to remove his mask, John argued the school not only jeopardised his ‘health and safety’, but that Dean’s ‘freedom of expression was censored’.


John explained the school had previously issued a ‘flowery letter that extolled the virtues of York Catholic High’s commitment to diversity’, but he argued that by telling Dean to take off the mask, the school demonstrated it ‘has miles to go before they can put the ugliness of unconscious bias and racism to sleep.’

John said his son had started the minority student’s club at the school ‘because he was specifically not allowed to call it the Black student union’, and claimed what happened at the graduation was ‘retaliation for his activism.’

John Boyega Gives Powerful Speech At Black Lives Matter DemonstrationPA Images

John continued:


As a parent I will not stand for my son being humiliated publicly, having his basic human dignity crushed on what should have been one of the happiest days of his young life.

My son literally was discriminated against in plain sight based on his race and his prior civil rights activism, and this latest action is part of a pattern and practice of discrimination at York Catholic and it cannot stand unchallenged.

One can only graduate from high school one time and for him to have to suffer this injustice is reprehensible. The dissatisfaction that he felt by being pulled out of line and forced to remove his mask was both incalculable and traumatic and will follow him the rest of his life.

Graduate told to remove Black Lives Matter maskWGAL News/YouTube

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In a statement issued in the wake of the backlash, Arthur Full, chairman of the York Catholic School Board, said it was standard ‘decorum’ for students to not wear any messages, though Dean’s family have claimed they were not told beforehand that masks with messages were not allowed.

The statement continued:


We wish to re-emphasize that York Catholic believes in the dignity of all human persons, and the equal treatment of all people.

We encourage our students, faculty, and alumni to engage in personal conversation, continue to listen with open hearts, always strive for better understanding, and grow as a supportive community of love and respect.

Following his graduation Dean is set to study economics at New York University, where he plans to join the Black Student Union.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Life, Black Lives Matter, graduation, Now, Pennsylvania, Racism


CNN and 2 others
  1. CNN

    High school student forced to take off Black Lives Matter mask at graduation ceremony, family says

  2. June Holmes/Facebook


  3. WGAL TV/YouTube

    York teenager shares his story after being asked to remove his 'Black Lives Matter' face mask