OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma House and Senate have voted to override Governor Kevin Stitt’s veto of a bill that would allow Native students to wear tribal regalia at graduation.
SB 429 would stop schools from banning students from wearing Native American regalia during graduation and school functions.
In Stitt’s veto message, he said schools should be able to set their own dress codes.
“In other words, if schools want to allow their students to wear tribal regalia at graduation, good on them; but if schools prefer for their students to wear only traditional cap and gown, the Legislature shouldn’t stand in their way,” the veto message reads. “Should this bill become law, the proverbial Pandora’s box will be opened for other groups to go over the heads of local superintendents and demand special favor to wear whatever they please at a formal ceremony.”
Days later, the elected leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole Nations called on the Oklahoma Legislature to overturn that veto, along with the vetoes of two other bills that dealt with state-tribal relations.
“These bills show what productive partnership between Tribal Nations and the State of Oklahoma can and should look like: collaborating to protect religious and cultural freedom, respect families, improve education, and keep communities safe from sex offenders. The Oklahoma Legislature should swiftly overturn the Governor’s vetoes,” a release by the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes.
With an 80-11 vote in the House and a 42-3 vote in the Senate, the Oklahoma Legislature decided to override Stitt’s veto Thursday.
The law now goes into effect July 1, 2023.
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.
A former Broken Arrow student is currently suing the district for the removal of an eagle feather from her graduation cap prior to her high school graduation ceremony in 2022.
“Many Native American students proudly wear tribal regalia at school ceremonies, and we thank the Legislature for protecting their right to do so,” Gary Batton,Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief. “This measure should not have been controversial. It has no costs for schools and expands students’ rights to honor their heritage. We look forward to seeing members of our Tribe and others honor their heritage at important moments in their lives.”