A new bill pending in the California State Assembly may give high school seniors authorization to freely express their diversity during graduation ceremonies.
The measure, AB233, is designed to give students exposure to the type of diversity they will see in life while at the same time, allowing them to express pride in their cultural ties.
According to the education-focused Cabinet Report, the legislation appears to be in response to the clashes seen in schools around the nation related to expressions of religious and cultural freedoms. For example, in 2014, eight Native American high school students in California were restricted from wearing eagle feathers–a highly revered symbol of achievement and the transition into adulthood–as part of their graduation regalia.
Such occurrences are not restricted to eagle feathers nor are they unique to California. Elsewhere in the nation, students at graduation ceremonies have been prevented from wearing such cultural items as kente cloth stoles, considered an important symbol of pride and achievement in African culture. In another (opposite example), there was quite a stir when a Sikh child in another state was permitted to carry a Kirpan, a religious instrument which happens to be a small dagger.
This is just a small sampling of issues related to cultural/religious expression at high school graduation ceremonies that continue to plague the nation. The California Education Code currently empowers school districts to develop policies related to appropriate and inappropriate school attire—this includes what students can and cannot wear during graduation ceremonies.
The bill’s author, Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, pointed out how the measure does not call for sweeping changes; but it does, in at least one small way, help facilitate California’s goal of promoting the power and benefits of diversity within the state.