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School Bans Wearing Orange Ribbon to Honor Classmate Who Died of Cancer, Then Reverses Its Decision

Angel Hall, left, with her late best friend, Kayla Barnes, at the hospital days before Kayla died from leukemia. (Photo: Angel Hall)

Soon-to-be high school graduate Angel Hall lost her best friend, Kayla Barnes, to leukemia in eighth grade. Angel will walk across the stage to receive her diploma wearing a small orange ribbon pinned to her white gown in Kayla’s honor. But that almost wasn’t going to happen.

The day before her graduation, Angel was told by Folsom, Penn., school officials that she would not be allowed to participate in the ceremony, citing a dress code violation.

“Kayla would’ve been graduating with us, and I miss her every day,” Angel tells Yahoo Style of her best friend, who died four years ago. “This is a way for me to share with her my special day.”

Angel made Kayla a promise to create awareness of the disease that took her life; the color orange raises leukemia awareness. For Angel, wearing the ribbon to honor Kayla’s memory was the right thing to do.

Angel reached out to Ridley High School’s vice principal via email on May 22 to ask permission to wear a small orange ribbon. However, she says, the school official never responded to her request. Instead, the day before the ceremony, Angel says, assistant principal Jamie Pena reportedly warned Angel that if she wore the ribbon, she would not be allowed to walk across the stage. Ridley High School did not respond to Yahoo Style’s request for comment.

Angel told her older sister Mandy Lee what had happened. Mandy then shared her thoughts on what she called an “injustice” in a Facebook post.

The post went viral, receiving more than 500 comments and almost 3,000 shares in just a few hours. The town’s support was “overwhelming,” says Angel.

“What really surprised me is people’s love towards me,” says Angel. “I learned more about my community in the last 24 hours than in my 18 years of life.”

Angel says that people in her town started calling to pressure school officials to let her and other students walk with the ribbon. Angel and her family made 450 orange ribbons, one for each of her classmates. “Most of my classmates came up to me to tell me how they were on my side and wanted to honor Kayla’s memory too,” she says.

Angel Hall and her family made 450 orange ribbons to distribute to each student at the graduation ceremony. The ribbons honor Kayla Barnes, who passed away four years ago. (Photo: Angel Hall)

After a morning meeting with the principal, Angel and her mother came out victorious. The school is allowing students to wear the orange ribbons and will also provide green and white ribbons for other students who also wish to honor loved ones they have lost.

“I never wanted this to be blown out of proportion,” says Angel. “All I know is that Kayla would be very happy because she always was joking around with me about who had the most Facebook followers.”

Angel Hall (right) with best friend Kayla Barnes a few years back. (Photo: Angel Hall)

Angel plans to go to college and become a nurse.

“Kayla was my inspiration — I remember visiting her in the hospital and seeing the nurses caring for her with love,” she says. “I want to care for others the same way.”

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