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Bill will finally permit students to wear religious, ceremonial, and cultural adornments during high school graduation ceremonies

Working on behalf of American Indian students who are denied the right to wear eagle feathers or other cultural adornment on their high school graduation cap and gown, California Indian Legal Services has successfully intervened in many of these cases. In some cases, schools have reversed its denial.

California Indian Legal Services brought this cultural issue to the attention of California lawmaker, Assembly member Todd Gloria, from San Diego, who introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 233 to amend the Education Code by proscribing that a school cannot institute a policy that “prohibits a pupil from wearing religious, ceremonial or cultural adornments at high school graduation ceremonies.”

Additionally, California Indian Legal Services partnered with the California State University San Marcos’ Native American Indian Studies and the School of Art, Arts and Technology, to produce a short video capturing the importance of this issue for Native American students and tribes.

SACRAMENTO, CA – California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) announced today the introduction of his bill, AB 233, which will finally permit students to wear religious, ceremonial, and cultural adornments during high school graduation ceremonies, a practice that has not been permitted in some school districts throughout the state.

“As a member of the Tlingit-Haida Tribes of Alaska, I am very proud to author this bill. Current state law has allowed school districts to adopt policies preventing students from cultural expression on one of the most celebrated days of their lives,” said Assemblymember Gloria. “California has long been one of the most inclusive and diverse states in the nation and we must continue to promote our collective diversity even when federal leaders seek to discourage it. With AB 233, we demonstrate to young people that pride in your cultural upbringing is not something to be silenced, but celebrated.”


“AB 233 will ensure that all students are allowed to exercise the right the Freedom of Speech and bring a uniform policy throughout the numerous school districts in California,” said Dorothy Alther, Executive Director for California Indian Legal Services (CILS), a supporter of AB 233. “CILS has been at the forefront of this issue during almost every high school graduation season and has seen firsthand the importance this small accommodation can make to students and their families. Allowing cultural, religious and traditional adornment on a student’s graduation cap or gown honors not only the student, but honors his or her heritage, tribal family and community.”
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