Debra Ramer: ‘I support my daughter’

Published 4:12 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chelsey Ramer and family after her graduation from Escambia Academy in May.

Chelsey Ramer and family after her graduation from Escambia Academy in May.

In the wake of Escambia Academy senior Chelsey Ramer’s decision to go against school policy by wearing an eagle feather in her graduation cap – a move that has garnered national attention – Debra Ramer, Chelsey’s mother, says her family is willing to accept the consequences of her daughter’s actions.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Debra Ramer said, while she and her family fully support Chelsey’s decision, they are willing to pay the $1,000 fine EA has handed down as a penalty for breaking the graduation dress code.

“According to Escambia Academy, no decision about the $1,000 fine was made Monday by the Escambia Academy board because the topic of the fine was not up for discussion,” Debra Ramer wrote. “With that being said, in order to pursue Chelsey’s educational goals and achieve college freshman status this fall, which is our highest priority at this time, the fine must be paid. That doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t mean I agree with it. And that doesn’t mean that the fight is over.”

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In an interview with The Advance last week, Chelsey Ramer said she chose to wear the eagle feather in her cap during graduation as a nod to her Poarch Creek Indian heritage, despite being turned down for permission to do so by EA officials several months ago

“I support my daughter. We, as a family, discussed the consequences and every scenario imaginable before she made her decision to wear her eagle feather, but that doesn’t make the consequences right,” Debra Ramer wrote. “That doesn’t make it right to deny Chelsey her rights. She has strong beliefs and convictions about many things that affect her life.”

Debra also pointed to a dress code of conduct document given to students to sign by EA officials as an overstepping of boundaries by the school, adding she hoped Betty Warren – the former headmaster who resigned just after graduation – was not prompted to leave by the controversy.

“I would also like to make crystal clear that the ‘contract’ for the graduation dress code was generated by the Escambia Academy board, not Ms. Warren,” Ramer wrote. “No one, especially minors, should be made to sign anything under duress. I have nothing but respect for Ms. Warren and sincerely hope that her abrupt resignation had nothing to do with this situation.”

Debra Ramer went on to write that she appreciates the support of the community and will continue to support her daughter as other decisions concerning the matter are made.

“The outpouring of support has been tremendous. We cannot say thank you enough. It is astounding how one very discreet, yet very poignant display of pride can grab the attention of so many people. It is our hope that you all are as passionate about many other important issues to, not only our community, but our tribe, our state, our country and the world. Please continue with the phone calls, the text messages, the emails and the petitions on matters that are important to you. It is our hope and ambition that one day every human being in the world will have the opportunity to discreetly and proudly display symbols of their heritage, spiritual and religious beliefs without consequence, as this countries constitution intended.”

Although legal experts close to the situation have said EA, as a private institution, is well within its rights to deny a request such as Ramer’s, officials with the school’s board have not yet released a statement.

For more on this developing story, including a look into the legality of this issue, continue checking and see the Saturday, June 8 edition of The Atmore Advance.