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Oklahoma lawmakers advance bill to ensure Indigenous students' right to wear tribal regalia at graduation

ACLU of Oklahoma

Senate Bill 429 would ensure Native students in public, charter and other schools are allowed to wear tribal regalia at high school graduations and other ceremonies in Oklahoma.

The bill unanimously passed out of the House Common Education Committee on Tuesday, and it is now on its way to the House floor for a vote.

The ACLU of Oklahoma advocated for the bill after hearing from several students about the importance of wearing their tribal regalia. Some schools say that if they allowed Native students an exception to the dress code-then they would have to do it for everyone. The ACLU countered that by asking, "What's wrong with that?"

House Democrats praised the advancement of the bill.

“As a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and a descendant of the Osage, I view this type of legislation with the utmost importance," Rep. Amanda Swope, D-Tulsa, said in a news release. "Coming from working in diversity and inclusion and in a space that prioritizes individual cultures, I know it is critical to give young people opportunities to show pride in themselves and the communities that helped get them there. This need is all the more necessary when you are one of many in a public system and celebrating significant accomplishments.”

There are more than156,000 Native American students enrolled in Oklahoma public schools.

This bill would prevent schools from banning students from wearing regalia like beaded caps at graduation or wearing eagle feathers.

According to House Democrats, some school districts continue to ban tribal regalia despite a2019 opinion from then-Attorney General Mike Hunter that considered tribal regalia protected under The Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

If the bill passes and is signed into law by the Governor, it would go into effect July 1.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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