A student in Oklahoma is reportedly planning to challenge a policy at his high school that prevents him from wearing traditional Native American garb to graduation.
The student, Tvli Birdshead, was told by officials at Latta High School in Ada, Okla., that it would be against the dress code for him to wear a beaded cap and feather, as well as an honor cord from his tribe, according to NBC’s “Today.”
Birdshead, who is a Chickasaw Nation member, said he was “frustrated at first” but not surprised by the school’s decision.
“I had already prepared myself for that answer. I had heard past stories of other students being denied [the right] to wear their regalia during graduation,” he told NBC. “Being able to wear any regalia during my graduation gives me the opportunity to acknowledge my people, and my relations. It gives me the opportunity to show who I come from as an extension of my beliefs.”
Latta Public Schools Superintendent Cliff Johnson told NBC that the Birdshead family plans to meet with the school board to discuss the matter.
“They have requested to discuss the policy with the Latta Board of Education at the next meeting,” Johnson said. “We are in the process of making arrangements for them to be able to present their views and concerns to the Board concerning the district’s procedures for graduation.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement to NBC that it is “very concerned” with the school’s “denial of Tvli Birdshead’s right to wear Native American religious and cultural items at his high school graduation.”
“Mr. Birdshead wishes to wear the feather in order to honor his Native American heritage, and as a sign of his academic success in graduating high school,” the ACLU said. “The Chickasaw Honor Cord is worn as a sign of academic success in graduating high school, similar to that of the National Honor Society. There are compelling legal and policy reasons why Mr. Birdshead should be allowed to wear these items.”