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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
May 17, 2024

Dear County and District Superintendents, Charter School Administrators, and High School Principals:

Reminder of Graduates’ Rights to Wear Tribal Regalia

As another school year comes to a close, I would like to thank you for all you do every day in support of our students, families, and staff. I know that you are in the midst of celebrating our graduates at commencement ceremonies with their families and friends, and my hope is that graduation is a time when we joyously embrace the richness of diversity of our students.

Many students will express their cultural pride and honor their heritage by wearing native or traditional clothing—and they must be allowed to do so.*

Graduation is a major milestone in the lives of our students, and this celebration not only encompasses their academic achievements but also the preservation and appreciation of the tapestry of our heritage. It marks a significant milestone in young people’s lives and provides an opportunity to celebrate not only their achievements but also the collective efforts of families, educators, and communities.

As we commemorate the dedication and accomplishments of our students, I urge you to implement policies that embrace culturally inclusive ceremonies and preserve the rights of our Native students. Let us ensure that these policies reflect and pay homage to the rich diversity present among our students and their families.

I encourage you to take the time to review the portion of the California Education Code (EC) cited in this letter as well as local policies and explore opportunities for students to honor their heritage, which is crucial for creating an inclusive and supportive environment. As policies are reviewed, the California Department of Education (CDE) recommends engaging with tribal leaders and American Indian communities to gain a deeper understanding of their traditions and values. Meeting with these community members allows for meaningful dialogue where perspectives can be shared and considerations for cultural practices can be incorporated into graduation ceremony policies. By collaborating in this way, educational institutions can demonstrate respect for cultural diversity and create opportunities for students to celebrate their heritage proudly.

The CDE deeply appreciates your dedication to ensuring that all students feel valued in their educational journey. We are committed to upholding our students’ cultural traditions and ensuring that graduation ceremonies are inclusive and reflective of the rich diversity within our student population.

Please extend my congratulations to all of your graduates and sincere thanks from the CDE to you and your staff for all that you do.

Have a great summer!

Sincerely,

Tony Thurmond
State Superintendent of Public Instruction

* Per Assembly Bill 1248 (Gloria) and Assembly Bill 945 (Ramos), California students have the right to wear tribal regalia to commencement ceremonies. California EC Section 35183.1 External link opens in new window or tab. specifically protects students’ right to wear “traditional tribal regalia or recognized objects of religious or cultural significance as an adornment at school graduation ceremonies.” This law went into effect on January 1, 2019, and applies to all students in California. The CDE fully supports policies allowing students to wear items honoring their unique cultures. Wearing items such as eagle feathers, beaded caps, tribal insignias, and stoles during graduation ceremonies is crucial for fostering a respectful and inclusive environment for American Indian students and their families.
Last Reviewed: Friday, May 17, 2024

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