SACRAMENTO – A measure to help ensure Native American students can wear items of spiritual or cultural significance at high school graduations was approved Wednesday in the Assembly Education Committee on a bipartisan vote of 7 to 0.
Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) said his bill, AB 945, is aimed at making sure students are not prevented from exercising this right guaranteed by the U.S. and California constitutions and state law to wear cultural and religious items at their graduation ceremonies. “Despite existing protections, local school officials have raised objections to students wearing eagle feathers, sashes with basket designs, basket caps and beaded medallions during graduation ceremonies,” Ramos stated.
AB 945 would create a 10-member task force to include tribal representatives from around the state and a member appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The group would collect comments and input from pupils and others affected by noncompliance with existing law, develop recommendations on ensuring compliance and submitting a report to the Legislature by April 2023.
“High school graduations are times of great celebration, especially in tribal communities because tribal kids have the lowest graduation rates of all ethnic groups,” Ramos said. “Our students have a 75.8 percent graduation rate compared to the 84.3 percent statewide rate. Eagle feathers and other symbols of Native American significance underscore not only the personal achievement but also the honor bestowed by the tribal community and the pride the community shares in the graduates’ achievement.”
The Ramos proposal is sponsored by the ACLU of California, the Yurok Tribe and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. AB 945 proceeds to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino. He is the first and only California Native American serving in the state’s legislature.