Colorado teen wears Mexican and U.S. flag sash to graduation

In this undated photo, Naomi Peña Villasano poses with a sash of both the Mexican and American flags that her school district barred her from wearing for her high school graduation ceremony. After Peña Villasano sued the district alleging that it violated her right to free speech, a federal judge in Colorado is weighing whether to let Peña Villasano wear the sash for graduation Saturday, May 27, 2023. (Daisy Jasmin Estrada Borja via AP)
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Associated Press

PARACHUTE, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado student barred from wearing a sash representing the flags of Mexico and the United States to her high school graduation did so anyway, partially covering it with another sash representing her participation in a service organization.

“Always stand up for what you believe in,” Grand Valley High School graduate Naomi Peña Villasano told the Post Independent of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, after receiving her diploma on Saturday in the west-central Colorado town of Parachute.

Peña Villasano’s case is the latest dispute in the U.S. about what kind of cultural graduation attire is allowed at commencement ceremonies.

Peña Villasano challenged school officials in court after they said she would be banned from graduation ceremonies if she wore the sash that has stars and stripes on one side and a cactus, eagle and a serpent to represent the Mexican flag on the other side.

A federal judge had ruled Friday that the school district could bar Peña Villasano from wearing the sash at graduation.

However, with her flag sash partially covered with a gold Key Club International one, no one tried to stop Peña Villasano from crossing the stage to receive her diploma.

School officials have said the policy of not allowing individual sashes at graduation was “to protect the symbolic traditions that signify the graduates’ academic accomplishments and services to the community. Each stole, cord or pin worn over the graduate’s gown symbolizes academic honors, school-sponsored activities and military enlistment,” the school said in a statement.

The district says it will reconsider its graduation sash policies before the Class of 2024 graduates next spring.

Similar disputes have played out across the U.S. during graduation season.

A transgender girl skipped the graduation ceremony at her Mississippi high school this year after she was banning her from wearing a dress to the ceremony. In Oklahoma, a Native American graduate brought legal action against a school district this month for removing a feather, a sacred religious object, from her cap before the graduation ceremony in 2022.