Dean Holmes, 18, was graduating from York Catholic High on 28 July when a member of the school’s staff reportedly pulled him out of the procession line at St Joseph’s Church.
Mr Holmes was allowed to finish his graduation after removing the face covering. But John Holmes said his son was “humiliated publicly” on what should have been “one of the happiest days of his young life”.
In a message posted on Facebook, Mr Holmes said his son’s safety had been jeopardised by being asked to remove the mask amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“His freedom of expression was censored when he was compelled to remove his mask or face the very real possibility of not graduating,” Mr Holmes added.
Mr Holmes also argued that his son had been discriminated against because of the colour of his skin.
“My son literally was discriminated against in plain sight based on his race and his prior civil rights activism,” Mr Holmes continued, in the message posted on Dean’s mother’s Facebook account.
“One can only graduate from high school one time and for him to have to suffer this injustice is reprehensible.”
According to Mr Holmes, his son was wearing the mask during practise before the official ceremony had begun. None of the staff had asked for it to be removed, he added.
It wasn’t until Dean had been about to start the graduation procession that he was asked to remove the mask, his father said.
York Catholic High School disputes Mr Holmes’s version of events.
Arthur Full, chair of the school’s board, said in a statement released on 2 August that Dean did not seek permission to wear the mask.
He also alleged that Dean had not worn the mask in the 45 minutes prior to the processional part of the ceremony, and only put it on at the “last minute”.
Mr Full also said the school had a policy of asking students not to wear garments displaying messages.
“Graduation ceremonies follow the tradition that no messages are permitted on caps or gowns. Any graduate wearing a cap, gown, or mask with any message would have been asked to remove it,” he added.