Ramos bill to protect Native American students’ right to wear cultural items at graduation approved by Assembly

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO –A measure to help ensure Native American students may exercise their right to wear items of spiritual or cultural significance at high school graduations was approved today on a bipartisan vote of 64-0. The measure, AB 945, by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) will be sent to the Senate.

“Despite existing protections in state law, local school officials continue to object when students wish to wear items such as eagle feathers, sashes with basket designs, basket caps or beaded medallions during graduation ceremonies,” Ramos stated. He noted that in 2018 former Assemblymember Todd Gloria, of Alaskan Native descent, successfully passed AB 1248 which authorized a student to wear tribal regalia or recognized objects of religious or cultural significance at graduation ceremonies.

AB 945 would further compliance with the previous bill Ramos said. The Ramos proposal would require the California Department of Education to convene a task force to gather public comments from people denied their right to wear traditional tribal regalia or recognized objects of religious or cultural significance at school graduation ceremonies.

The task force would be required to:

  • Develop recommendations for best practices and protocols,
  • Develop policies to address how to comprehensively implement all aspects of existing law; and
  • Submit a report to the Legislature summarizing public comments and the task force's findings and recommendations by April 1, 2023. 

Task force membership would consist of 10 members of California Native American tribes: nine to be appointed by the Governor's Tribal Advisor and one by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“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 are often presented by a proud community to the student as a way to recognize a personal achievement, It is a means for the tribe not only to honor the student but to share in and express pride in the graduate’s 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.

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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.