A Black teenager says he had to take off his Black Lives Matter mask during his high school graduation ceremony in York, Pennsylvania, last month. Dean Holmes told CBS News that he wore it because Black lives are "at risk right now."
Holmes, 18, was pulled off the York Catholic High School graduation procession line by the principal on July 28 and was "forced to remove his mask," according to a viral Facebook post where his father, John, listed his grievances against the school.
John Holmes said his son's "freedom of expression was censored when he was compelled to remove his mask or face the very real possibility of not graduating." The school did not issue any specific warnings about masks or clothing etiquette regarding masks, he said.
The post also details Dean's past run-ins with the school, including him writing an essay about his experience with racism in private school that he wasn't allowed to read at a contest because it was "too controversial."
"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," the elder Holmes said. "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."
He said the experience for his son was "both incalculable and traumatic and will follow him the rest of his life."
York Catholic addressed the father's claims on the mask incident in a statement on their website, saying Dean was told privately to remove his mask before entering the church where the graduation was held. Their decorum follows a tradition that no messages are permitted on caps or gowns, according to the school. That stance now includes masks.
"Any graduate wearing a cap, gown, or mask with any message would have been asked to remove it," the school said.
CBS News' Vladimir Duthiers spoke to the teenager and his father about the experience.
"All lives do definitely matter, but Black lives are at risk right now," Dean said. "You know, they're not really safe in their own skin. It's like you can draw some attention to this to show support."
The student's father commented on how supportive strangers have been to his family.
"You know with the internet and social media, we have a voice," he said. "The outpour of such positive people of every race has been so wonderful to see."