Tribal Regalia at Graduation

In 2018, the California State Legislature passed AB 1248, adding Education Code section 35183.1. The code allows Native students to wear “traditional tribal regalia or recognized objects of cultural or religious significance” as adornment at school graduation ceremonies.

As a Native student, you deserve to honor your heritage and culture at your graduation. If you’ve faced disapproval from your school administration about wearing your tribal regalia, remember that you have the legal right to do so. California Indian Legal Services is here to help you assert and protect your rights under AB 1248.

In California, Native students hold the legal right to proudly wear their tribal regalia during commencement ceremonies. Despite this, numerous school administrations have created barriers, leaving students feeling discouraged from embracing their tribal heritage. CILS has joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California to empower Native students, encouraging them to defy these obstacles and assert their rightful celebration of their tribal cultures at graduation. Together, we stand for cultural pride and resilience, ensuring that Native students’ heritage are honored and celebrated.

In an effort to support students who may face discrimination from schools that deny them the right to wear tribal regalia, CILS and the ACLU of California have collaborated to create a toolkit that provides useful resources to empower students to advocate for themselves. This toolkit includes a signed letter that students can present to their school administration, highlighting the importance of AB 1248 and the students’ rights to wear tribal regalia. 

Despite the availability of these resources, it is possible that some schools may still refuse to recognize a student’s rights. In such cases, we strongly encourage students to contact our offices immediately for further action. We are committed to protecting the rights of Native students and will work tirelessly to ensure that such discriminatory practices are brought to light and addressed.


If you’re a Native student facing opposition from your school regarding wearing tribal regalia at your graduation ceremony, don’t hesitate to reach out to the CILS office in your county. We’re here to support you every step of the way, guiding you through the process of addressing the issue with your school administration and how to use our letter template. If necessary, we’ll escalate the matter to ensure your rights are respected and that you can proudly celebrate your cultural heritage during this important milestone. Your cultural identity matters, and we’re here to help you assert it.

It's Not a Distraction, It's My Culture

School administrations frequently prohibit Native students from wearing their tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies, citing it as a distraction. However, this policy is discriminatory as it undermines the cultural identity and heritage of Native students. CILS stands as an advocate to fight against such discrimination, empowering Native students to assert their rights and celebrate their cultural heritage without fear of retaliation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is AB 1248?

AB 1248 is a California state law that is part of our California Education Code. This law protects the rights of all students to express their culture, customs and practices at their graduation

What is the significance of AB 1248?

Wearing Tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies helps honor Native student achievements and enriches the ceremony’s meaning. AB1248 limits the ways public schools can regulate Native student cultural expression at graduation ceremonies. This law is significant for Native students because it authorizes the wearing of Tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies that do not “substantially disrupt or materially interfere with” graduation ceremonies.

Does AB 1248 apply if I go to a private school?

AB 1248 does not apply to private schools. However, the value of expressing Native culture at graduation is the same whether the school is public or private. We encourage all Native students to participate in cultural expressions that enhance, enliven and enrich graduation ceremonies and help the whole community acknowledge the outstanding achievements of our Native students whether they are graduating from public or private schools.

Does AB 1248 apply to college graduation ceremonies too?

AB 1248 does not apply to college graduations. However, the principles of AB1248 extend to college graduations. All college students, whether in public or private colleges, should be able to express and honor their unique Native cultures consistent with AB1248.

Does AB 1248 apply if I'm not enrolled in a tribe?

There are no enrollment or official membership requirements in AB 1248. All Native students enjoy AB 1248 protections.

Does AB 1248 apply if my tribe isn't federally recognized?

There are no federally recognized Tribe requirements in AB 1248. All Tribes and their students enjoy AB 1248 protections.

What counts as "tribal regalia" under AB 1248?

Under AB 1248, Tribal regalia means objects that are part of a recognized custom, practice or tradition and are attached to or worn with, but not replacing, a traditional cap and gown. For example, Tribal regalia could include a feather attached to the crown of a graduation cap.

Do I have to provide advance notice to my school that I will be wearing tribal regalia?

Some schools require advance notice of a student’s intent to wear regalia at graduations. These requirements will apply to all students, not just to Native students. Advance notice requirements will vary among schools. Students should consult school administrators at the beginning of the graduation semester to determine advance notice requirements. These requirements should be written and publicly available.

Do I need my school's permission to wear my tribal regalia?

Students do not need permission to wear Tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies. However, students do need to confirm that their regalia conforms to school requirements at the outset of the graduation semester. The regalia requirements should be written and should be publicly

Contact Our Offices If Your Rights Are Denied

If you’re a Native high school student facing obstacles in wearing your tribal regalia during commencement, please reach out to our offices so that we can uphold your protected rights under AB 1248.