OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new bill is moving forward, preventing schools from banning students from wearing tribal regalia during graduation and other school functions.
Similar proposals have failed in the past.
“We want to continue to keep giving it a shot so we can make sure these kids have the opportunity to do this,” said Senator John Michael Montgomery R-Lawton.
“A think it’s pretty common sense and I always advocate for common-sense legislation,” said Representative Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton.
Rep. Caldwell and Sen. Montgomery are both lawmakers from Lawton with many Native Americans in their overlapping districts.
They wrote SB 429, which would stop schools from banning students from wearing Native American regalia during graduation and school functions.
Similar bills failed in 2020 and 2021. The lawmakers say that’s because some worried it would lead to dress-code exemptions.
In 2019, a school district in Ada made national headlines after a senior, and member of five different tribes, was told it’d be against dress code if he wore his Chickasaw Nation honor cords while walking across the stage.
“Wearing the honor cord and wearing these things, it has a whole different meaning,” Tvli Birdshead told News 4 in 2019. “It’s acknowledging that I’m the future leader, and that this is the first step towards a higher education.”
“Let’s respect them enough to allow them to wear it in a respectful way,” said Senator Montgomery.
Caldwell also said in the past, previous versions of the bill had to do with religious freedoms.
“I remember one time I presented in the committee on the House side, someone tried to try to go down a slippery slope and say, well, what about satanic rituals or, you know, stuff of that nature,” said Rep. Caldwell. “Freedom of religion in this country is enshrined in our Constitution.”
They said SB429 is specifically tailored to schools.
“I personally think it’s already law, but let’s go ahead and enshrine that,” said Caldwell.
The bill made it out of the Senate Education Committee Tuesday with very little editing and no pushback.
If it passes, it will go into effect July 1st, 2023.