Sunday, June 4, 2023

“I’m Proud of Who I Am”: This Latina Student Demands She Be Allowed to Wear a Serape With the Mexican Flag at Her Graduation

A Colorado-based Mexican-American student sued her school district after she was Serape—a traditional Mexican garment— During his high school graduation ceremony, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) reported this Friday.

Naomi Pena VillasanoAn 18-year-old student at Grand Valley High School, located in Parachute, on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains and 320 kilometers west of Denver, complied with a requirement last April to send a picture of her dress to officials at that school. for graduation, which will be held on Saturday, May 27.

The snake the student planned to use—a gift from his brother— Displays the flags of Mexico and the United States, symbols of their dual cultural identity. However, the garment was not approved by the education authorities.

Naomi Peña Villasano, 18, graduates from Grand Valley High School in Colorado on Saturday, May 27.Courtesy Daisy Jasmine Estrada Borja

In response to the ban, the teen filed a lawsuit this week against Garfield County School District 16, five members of the board of education, Superintendent Jennifer Baugh and Grand Valley High School Principal Kelly McCormick.

The 18-page complaint states that a judge authorized Peña Villasano to use Serap during her graduation and, in addition, that the school director assure Reasons for refusal not explained, MALDEF and the law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLC are representing the young woman.

According to the lawsuit, when a professor overheard Peña Villasano commenting on the dress she would wear to her graduation, he told her she would not be allowed at the ceremony.

student Naomi Peña Villasano at the Colorado House of Representatives on May 5, where she received an award.
student Naomi Peña Villasano at the Colorado House of Representatives on May 5, where she received an award.Courtesy of

After the comment — the lawsuit specified — the student went to the principal’s office to ask if she had authorization to pick him up. According to the court complaint, the director’s secretary saw Serep’s photograph and told Peña Villasano that The garment “wasn’t going to open many doors”,

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Noticias Telemundo left messages at the offices of Garfield County School District 16 and Grand Valley High School for comment, but did not immediately receive a response. The district later said it would not comment, citing ongoing litigation.

Superintendent Baugh told The Denver Post that Garfield County School District 16 had no comment on the ongoing lawsuit.

Finally, according to the lawsuit, the director confirmed that he could not wear traditional Mexican garb during his graduation, and acknowledged that there was no written or political rule in this regard.

The lawsuit further states that Peña Villasano’s sister-in-law contacted Superintendent Baugh to discuss the matter, and Baugh allegedly told her that the students were wearing clothing or items related to Native American and Pacific Islander cultures or military service. Can

against freedom of expression

In 2021 and 2022, according to the lawsuit Grand Valley High School allowed Polynesian students to graduate wearing traditional flower wreaths of the region. In 2022, a Mexican student from the same school graduated with a serape draped over his shoulders. Court documents said last year also two students wore necklaces made of dollar bills.

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According to Maldef, there are two problems in the case: not allowing Peña Villasano to wear the dress she chose on graduation day violates your freedom of expressionGuaranteed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Student Naomi Peña Villasano receives applause from attendees at the Colorado House of Representatives on May 5, 2023.
Student Naomi Peña Villasano receives applause from attendees at the Colorado House of Representatives on May 5, 2023.Courtesy of

in the second place, Other students will be allowed to wear badges or other items related to their culture or with your military service, current or future, during graduation.

MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. “We live in an era of increasing First Amendment threats to public schools,” Saenz said. “In this case, the district has wrongly concluded that it could discriminate against certain students and their legacies while honoring other students. Our constitution does not permit such blatant discrimination.”

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MALDEF attorney Kenneth Parreno emphasized that “the United States Constitution and Colorado law protect the rights of students to express their cultural heritage, and schools do not have the right to choose what kind Cultural heritage should be celebrated.”

“I’m proud of who I am”

MALDEF lawyers explained in their lawsuit that Peña Villasano identifies both with his Mexican heritage – stemming from his family and ancestors – and with his American citizenship, and this is why Serape bears the flags of both countries.

Last week, Peña Villasano testified before the school board, asking them to allow her to wear the seraph.

Peña Villasano said during his testimony, “I belong to a group of 200: 100% American and 100% Mexican.” “I was born in the United States but my parents are Mexican immigrants who came here looking for a better life. […] He has sacrificed for me and given me everything in so many ways that I am grateful for. Also my brothers. I’m proud of who I am and the opportunities I’ve had,” she said.

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At the conclusion of the meeting, Lynn Shore, president of the Garfield County School District 16 Board of Education, claimed that the district’s rules regarding items and clothing at graduation would be enforced.

However, Shore and Baugh acknowledged during the meeting that there was no written policy aboutExtended document.

According to MALDEF, Superintendent Baugh told Peña Villasano that allowing her to display the flags at graduation would “open the door” for other students to display flags that “could be offensive.”

In statements sent by MALDEF, Peña Villasano expressed that “‘I want this change to happen not only for Latinos, but also for all future graduates, so that no one else has to go through what I went through. I have passed.”

Grand Valley School has approximately 300 students.Of which 35% are of Hispanic origin. Furthermore, 52% of students come from low-income families and only 37% of students are at the academic level they should be. In Garfield County, Hispanics make up 29% of the population of 62,000.

with information from denver postEFE and maldives

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