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AB-233 CA Education Code Amendment: Right to Wear Religious, Ceremonial, or Cultural Adornments at School Graduation Ceremonies

On March 15, 2017, the Assembly Education Committee held a hearing and passed AB-233, that was introduced by Assemblymember Todd Gloria, (D-San Diego). Under AB-233 the California Education Code would be amended to prohibit schools from denying students the right to wear traditional, cultural, or religious adornment on their cap and gown during graduation. The need for this amendment comes after numerous contacts received by CILS each graduation season from Native American students and their families reporting that their local school is denying the student the right to wear an eagle feather on their graduation cap, beaded adornment on their gown or a tribal traditional sash. Testifying before the Committee on the importance and need for AB-233 was CILS Executive Director, Dorothy Alther, the Honorable Chairman from the Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, Bo Mazzetti and Ms. Rebekah Israel, a member of the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe who graduated in 2016 and had her eagle feather removed from her graduation cap.

The California School Board Association (CSBA) filed a letter opposing the bill and testified against AB-233 contending, among other things, that the amendment was unnecessary because current law and local school district already ensure students the right to wear items of religious significance at their graduation, such as an eagle feather. As pointed out by the testimony of both Ms. Alther and Ms. Israel, this is not the case, and there is a lack of consistency among school districts on this issue. AB-233 will bring a uniform, standard and practice to all schools ensuring no student is denied their right to freedom of expression at their graduation.

Watch the Assembly Education Committee meeting here and bypass watching the entire three-hour meeting by scrolling down the list and clicking on AB-233.

AB-233 will now move to the Assembly Judiciary Committee for review and hearing.

CILS will like to thank all of the tribes that submitted letters of support and/or had their representatives at the hearing to voice their support directly before the Committee.

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