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Graduation medal controversy

Honors students at Liberty High School had to choose between wearing a medal and participating in their graduation.

A graduation night students will remember forever was shrouded in controversy for several seniors at Liberty High School.  They earned medals from the National Honor Society of Sports Medicine, but the district said they couldn’t walk unless they removed the medals.


Commencement at Liberty was a joyous occasion for hundreds of graduating seniors, but honors student McKenna Coats watches from the sidelines because of one academic medal she wore.


“I've been denied to walk my graduation because I have earned a medal that I'm not able to wear,” said Coats.


It's a National Honors Society of Sports Medicine medal, awarded to students in the program who receive a 3.5 GPA or higher in core classes.  17 liberty students earned one.


“We all have to volunteer at Children's Hospital, we have to do so many community service hours.  We participated in St. Baldrick’s, got recognized by the City of Fresno and it's really sad we can't be honored here,” said Coats.


Golden Valley Unified School District apparently decided this week it wouldn't allow the medal.. The superintendent said quote:


"It's a special night.  We want to make sure we maintain that.  There are certain medals that have been approved.  This is one that has not," said Superintendent Andy Alvarado.


16 other recipients chose to wear their medals under their gown but coats took a stand, and paid the price.


“I was proud of my daughter to say no, ‘I'm going to wear this medal,’” said Tim Coats, McKenna’s father.


The co-founder of the National Honors Society of Sports Medicine is shocked by the last-minute controversy.

"It just breaks my heart because we founded this organization to give students recognition they deserve for such hard work," said Eli Hallak.

The honors society says in six years of awarding medals in 44 different chapters, only one other school has ever banned the medals.


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