Jonathan Birdshead being told he cannot wear bead graduation cap. Photo from Facebook
EL RENO, OKLAHOMA – Jonathan Birdshead has been denied wearing a beaded graduation cap for his high school commencement ceremony. The graduation cap was handbeaded by one of his relatives. The cap has been confiscated by school officials and will returned after the ceremony tonight.
He is allowed to wear a eagle feather on his graduation cap.
Native News Online just received this statement from Craig McVay, Superintendent, El Reno Public Schools, based in El Reno, Oklahoma:
Historically, El Reno Public Schools has never allowed decorations of any kind on graduation mortar boards, with the exception of an eagle feather for our Native American students. Our intention is for students to respect and understand the cap’s symbolism. To allow decorations on the cap for one would open it up for all. We do, however, allow Native American students to wear their traditional clothing, moccasins and regalia under their robes if they prefer. The graduation ceremony is a celebratory event, but it is also a serious milestone in our students’ lives, and we want them to be cognizant of this fact. We deeply value our relationship with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nation, as well as other tribal entities, and we will continue to work closely with them in education our Native American students.
Craig McVay, Superintendent
El Reno Public Schools
The Governor of the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes responded to the superintendent’s statement with this release:
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes does all it can to protect one of our tribes most precious investments, our youth. We do not condone any outside influences involving our young people and wish to point out that we take education very seriously.
In doing so, we strongly support El Reno Public Schools graduation attire policy. It has been brought to our attention that there has been some confusion supporting our tribal students who will be graduating and what they are allowed to wear.
The policy allows students to wear traditional clothing to include regalia, beadwork, moccasins and eagle feathers. It also states that no student can alter the top of the graduation cap. We were informed he has been offered a new cap and the student accepted it. We want to emphasize that the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes fully support the schools policies and guidelines that allow our students to demonstrate pride in our culture and traditions.
Tribal leaders from the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes met with school officials this afternoon.
The issue has drawn attention from American Indians around the country after the story shared on social media.