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Boy risks diploma by wearing bolo under graduation robe

Sat., June 11, 2005

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – School officials are withholding a 17-year-old boy’s diploma for wearing a bolo tie under his graduation gown.

Thomas Benya said he prefers the string bolo ties over traditional knotted ties to reflect his American Indian heritage.

But officials from Maurice J. McDonough High School in suburban Washington said they warned him beforehand that a bolo violated the dress code for the event, held Wednesday for about 250 students.

The bolo “was not considered by staff to be a tie,” said Katie O’Malley-Simpson, a spokeswoman for Charles County schools. “We have many opportunities throughout the year to express cultural heritage. But we don’t do that at graduation.”

Benya said he never thought his diploma was at stake and wore a bolo anyway.

“I did not feel that I should change my heritage for an hour and a half to wear an actual tie to show respect when they aren’t showing respect to me,” he said.

The spokeswoman said that the school will give Benya his diploma but that he has not set up a meeting to receive it.


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