Thomas Benya's diploma is waiting for him at the post office in Waldorf. But the Charles County teenager who wore a forbidden bolo tie to graduation said yesterday he is holding out for an apology from school officials before he picks it up.
The principal at Maurice J. McDonough High School withheld Benya's diploma last week after the student wore his string tie with a silver clasp even after a warning that it did not comply with the dress code for graduation. Benya, who says the tie was a tribute to his Native American roots, was told to schedule a meeting with administrators to collect his diploma.
Principal Garth Bowling dropped that demand this week amid a stir of national attention to the controversy, including more than 100 e-mails from across the country supporting Benya and his bolo. Benya and his mother were flown to New York to appear on NBC's "Today" show Monday.
The principal "felt that he needed to take a step to bring resolution and conclusion to this," said school system spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson. "Since Thomas indicated he wasn't going to pick it up, he mailed it to his home."
That did not satisfy Benya and his parents, who called a news conference yesterday in front of the school district offices.
"They want it to go away," said Benya's mother, Marsha, a real estate agent in Waldorf. "We do, too, but not with them telling everyone he broke the rules."
Benya received a notice Tuesday that the U.S. Postal Service had tried to deliver a package from the school district. But he wants the principal to present the diploma to him in front of his family and friends.
"I want school officials to know that I deserve better treatment after their poor judgment," he said, wearing a turquoise American Indian necklace known as a squash blossom.
Associate Superintendent Ronald G. Cunningham, who fielded questions on behalf of the high school, said yesterday that the issue should be resolved one-on-one.
"If that's what they are looking for," he said, "they should be contacting Mr. Bowling and setting up an appointment."