Gloria Bill to Preserve Students’ Rights to Wear Cultural Adornments at Graduation Advances in Senate

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Assemblymember Gloria Continues Push for Students’ Rights to Showcase Cultural, Religious Heritage at Commencement

SACRAMENTO, CA – As thousands of students prepare to participate in spring graduation, legislation authored by California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) that would ensure students can wear items of cultural significance during commencement ceremonies – a practice previously prohibited in some school districts across the state – was approved by the Senate Education Committee today on a bipartisan vote of 5-0.

Graduation is one of the biggest moments in any person’s life. No government entity should have the power to silence a students’ proud display of their cultural traditions as they celebrate this personal milestone,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “Regrettably, this has happened in California and it’s why AB 1248 is necessary. As much as this bill is about preserving students’ rights to wear cultural adornments during commencement, it is equally about protecting students’ rights to freedom of expression.”

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 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 – a fabric worn during important occasions in African culture – at his commencement ceremony.

AB 1248 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.

AB 1248 is supported by the ACLU, California Teachers Association, California Tribal Business Alliance, and tribal nations across the state.   

AB 1248 now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. AB 1248 was approved by the Assembly in January. The full text of AB 1248 can be found here.