Assembly Passes Gloria Bill to Protect Students’ Rights to Wear Cultural Adornments at Graduation

Monday, January 22, 2018

AB 1248 by Assemblymember Gloria to Preserve Students’ Rights to Cultural Expression Passes Assembly, Sent to State Senate

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California State Assembly passed legislation authored by California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) that would protect the rights of California students to wear items of cultural significance on graduation day. AB 1248 received bipartisan approval on the Assembly Floor with a vote of 68-1 and will now head to the State Senate for consideration.

I am pleased that my colleagues recognize the significance of preserving students’ rights to honor their cultural and religious identity at graduation,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “I believe there is no reason why state law should be unclear on this issue. AB 1248 ensures students will not be denied access to our nation’s most fundamental right to free expression on their special day.” 

Under current law, the education code gives school districts the authority to develop and enforce reasonable dress code policies. This includes appropriate and inappropriate graduation attire. Some districts in California have adopted “no adornment” policies for graduation ceremonies which specifically disallow the display of cultural adornments.

In 2014, eight Native American high school seniors were restricted from wearing eagle feathers – a highly revered symbol of one’s passage into adulthood – as part of their graduation regalia. In 2016, an African-American student was not permitted to wear kente cloth – an important symbol of pride and achievement in African culture – at his commencement ceremony.

AB 1248, formerly AB 233, explicitly adds to the Education Code that students have “the right to wear religious, ceremonial, or cultural adornments at school graduation ceremonies.” In addition, AB 1248 adds a provision that could allow school districts to prohibit such items should they cause a “substantial disruption” or “interfere with” the graduation ceremony. The full text of AB 1248 can be found here.

AB 1248 is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, National Association of Social Workers- California Chapter, and 11 tribal nations.