A San Francisco Bay Area school refused to allow a 17-year old senior to wear his Army uniform at its graduation ceremony on Friday — and a social media backlash has school officials backpedalling.
PFC Harland J Fletcher, who wanted to show his pride in his country by wearing his “dress blues” at graduation, was told by school officials at Liberty High School in Brentwood, California that he would have to cover up his uniform to participate.
Brentwood is a relatively conservative farming community east of San Francisco near Discovery Bay.
PFC Fletcher, a US Army Reserve Medic attended BCT or Basic Combat Training between his junior and senior year of high school, enlisting on his 17th birthday, the earliest day possible. This option is known as a “Split Option.
He wanted to wear his Army Service Uniform (Blues as many of us knew them) and inquired of many administrators, and was advised it was acceptable, per his counselor.
On the date of the graduation commencement (Friday, June 9, 2017) he was advised by several vice principals and the principal, that he could not participate unless he put a robe over the uniform.
Fletcher, who spoke by phone with Breitbart News on Monday, was overwhelmed and encouraged by the public support for his son, Harland.
He told Breitbart News that his son having been assured by his counselor that he could wear his dress blues for the graduation ceremony, Harland arrived early to the staging area in the gym where almost 600 other students were getting ready. As he prepared to line up, he was told that he could not walk in the ceremony in his uniform, that he would have to wear a cap and gown over it.
The young PFC knew that would be a violation of military code, and told them, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. That’s defacing the uniform. That’s against the uniform regulation.” Fletcher said.
So he texted his father, Bill, an army veteran himself. He arrived quickly, and accompanied his son to seek out the principal.
The principal was busy elsewhere, and the door was guarded by Vice Principal Sandra Guardado, who was informed that PFC Fletcher had received prior permission to walk in uniform.
“I don’t care.” Guardado reportedly said. “He wears a cap and gown like everyone else. Liberty High School is a legacy school. Oldest high school in Brentwood. I have a cap and gown here that he can wear over his uniform and I’ll even iron it for him.”
PFC Fletcher politely declined the robe offer and advised her that California law gave him the right to wear a dress uniform at graduation.
“You can pick up the diploma in the office on Monday,” he was told.
Harland’s friends were outraged as he said goodbye, and a number of people in the stands reportedly asked why he was leaving before the ceremony.
His father says: “I am tired of service members and vets being quietly and systematically denied rights by establishments that should know, respect and abide by the laws enacted on all of our behalves.”
Dozens of media outlets reached out almost immediately, but it was not until much later that evening, after it had been all over the news, that Principal Patrick Walsh finally reached out to Fletcher.
The Fletcher family had first learned of the school’s apology from local reporters who came out to the family home to interview the young man.
A local CBS affiliate (KPIX 5) reported, “[t]he Liberty Union High School District issued a statement to KPIX 5 Saturday, saying they were wrong and offering this apology:
“No slight was meant to Harland nor to the US Army. In fact with a little prior notification I’m sure Principal Walsh and the site administration would’ve come to this conclusion before the ceremony.”
Fletcher’s response to what he characterized as a ‘non-apology’ apology:
“I honestly feel like you can apologize all you really want, but in the moment you should’ve already known. Police officers must know penal code in order to do their jobs, school administrators should be no different. The counselor had been advised of Harlan’s plans to wear his uniform months in advance, but chose not to honor his right to do so.”
On Sunday morning, Principal Walsh called and apologized again — and this time offered to do something about it.
On Monday, June 12th, PFC Harlan Fletcher will walk in a “make-up ceremony” in the quad at Liberty High School, where hundreds of chairs have been set up for his family, friends, and the public. Veterans’ groups including VFW, American Legion and the Freedom Riders, have committed to attend.
Phone calls by Breitbart News to Principal Walsh and Vice Principal Guardado were not returned.