Lawsuit Regarding the Right to Wear a Traditionally-Beaded Graduation Cap and Eagle Plume at High School Graduation

Here is the Complaint in Larissa Waln and Bryan Waln v. Dysart School District et al. in the District of Arizona.

More information and the press release can be seen here.

Federal Court Affirms Oklahoma School’s Refusal to Allow Native High School Graduate to Wear Eagle Feather on Graduation Cap

Here is the order in Griffith v. Caney Valley Public Schools (N.D. Okla.):

22. Order and Opinion (5-20-15)

Prior materials here.

Magistrate Decision in Griffith v. Caney Valley Public Schools

In which the student is denied the right to wear an eagle feather on her graduation cap. Her graduation from Caney Valley Public Schools, which is just north of Tulsa, is tomorrow.

Recommendation

The School demonstrated that the graduation ceremony is a formal ceremony and that the unity of the graduating class as a whole is fostered by the uniformity of the caps which are the most prominently visible part of the graduation regalia viewed by the audience to the graduation. Prohibiting decoration of any graduation cap by any student for any purpose serves these legitimate interests. Based on the application of these established principles the undersigned finds that Plaintiff has not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on her First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion claim.

Plaintiff’s Motion and Brief

Defendant’s Motion and Brief

20. Objection to Report and Rec (5-20-15)

21. Defs Resp to Obj to RR (5-20-15)

Letter from NARF, ACLU, and California Indian Legal Services Regarding Wearing Eagle Feathers at Graduation

Regarding the controversy at Lemoore High School initially forbidding graduating students from wearing an eagle feather on their graduation cap (article here). Letter here.

Typically, an eagle feather is given only in times of great honor – for example, eagle feathers are given to mark great personal achievement. The gift of an eagle feather to a youth is a great honor and is typically given to recognize an important transition in his or her life. Many young people are given eagle feathers upon graduation from high school to signify achievement of this important educational journey and the honor the graduate brings to his or her family, community, and tribe.

Bryce is an enrolled member of the Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa Rancheria, a federally recognized tribe. His Indian heritage comes from his father, who passed away when Bryce was three years old. Bryce’s feathers were gifted to him by his family specifically for this important occasion – his graduation from high school.

Finally, in deciding how to press forward in this matter, we ask Lemoore Union High School District to remember that “in our society and in our culture high school graduation is one of life’s most significant occasions.” Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 595, 112 S.Ct. 2649, 2659, 120 L.Ed.2d 467 (1992). “Graduation is a time for family and those closest to the student to celebrate success and express mutual wishes of gratitude and respect, all to the end of impressing upon the young person that role that it is his or her right and duty to assume in the community and all of its diverse parts.” Id. In light of the significance that the eagle feather has to Native American students, especially at graduation, we urge you to permit Native American students like Bryce Baga to express their religious and spiritual beliefs by wearing eagle feathers on their cap or gown.