South Aiken graduate denied diploma over flag

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 11:19 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - A night you look forward to walking across the stage and receiving your diploma. South Aiken High graduate, Faith walked but her diploma is on hold.

“It feels like I’m taking one step forward and two steps back, I did all that work just to graduate. Just for them to take my diploma away and suspend it,” said Faith Schaefer.

It’s all because of this. After walking across the stage on the way back to her seat she held up this flag to spread a message.

“I’m with you like I’m not a part of your community, but I’ll definitely be an advocate for you and I’ll support you. That’s what I wanted to do and show other people. And I did,” she said.

Shortly after the ceremony, her principal told her they would suspend her diploma because she violated graduation code of conduct.

“They never brought out the code in front of me, they just told me that I broke a couple of rules,” she said.

South Aiken High’s dress code is very specific. Both males and females must wear solid black and the only accessories allowed are class rings. The code of conduct signed by Faith and her parent detail all the things not allowed. That includes fist-bumping, hugging, dancing, and waving at spectators.

Despite the strict rules, it says nothing about flags.

“They kept looking at me up and down just giving me a whole bunch of nasty looks,” she said.

The district says disciplinary consequences aren’t limited to the list. So Faith’s actions could fall under a category at the administrators discretion. Still, Faith feels like she was treated unfairly.

“I just I just don’t get it. Why are they being like that,” she said.

The district says regardless of what was on the flag, the consequences still apply. Faith still received all her credits for graduation just not the diploma. She was also told she’d face additional consequences as well. Her and her mother say they’re going to continue to push for her diploma and she doesn’t regret sharing her message.

A similar incident happened in North Carolina recently. A graduate wore the Mexican flag during his ceremony. His diploma was withheld due to violating the dress code. After push back from his family and community he got his diploma four days later.

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