A member of the Pit River Tribe attended his high school graduation ceremony wearing a sacred eagle feather after resolving the lawsuit with the California school district.
The Native American student had been barred from wearing the feather he considered sacred to the graduation ceremony, as were other students who would have wanted to wear rosaries, necklaces or stoles. But on Thursday, at sunset, both Christian Titman and his fellow colleagues marched towards the Clovis High School’s stadium.
Titman wore his long, braided hear (eagle feather included) on one side of his cap and his graduation tassel on the other.
But this success only came after the high school student sued the Clovis Unified School District for having violated his religious rights and those of freedom of expression. The school district had attempted to enforce certain dress code requirements. Under those requirements, students would have been barred from wearing stoles, leis, necklaces, rosaries or other similar objects.
In one of Superintendent Janet Young’s letters to Titman’s legal team, the school district’s decision was described as an attempt to limit and avoid disruptions stemming from possible alterations that students may have made to their graduation attire.
But according to Pit River Tribe tradition, eagle feathers are considered symbolic of an outstanding achievement.
Titman’s attorneys finally reached a settlement with the school district’s legal team on Tuesday. According to American Civil Liberties Union of N. California, Rebecca Farmer, Titman was allowed to wear his sacred feather during the ceremony.
Initially, the case went to court before the judge required the two sides to reach a settlement. Titman soon became an inspiration because of his determination in advocating for his rights of wearing symbols of his cultural and religious heritage.
“Just like the hijab or yarmulke, this is something that is intrinsic to the religion,” tribal rights attorney Tara Houska said.
According to the student’s legal representatives, such a refusal of religious symbols at such an important moment represented a “misunderstanding of both the spirit and the letter of the law.” ACLU Staff attorney, Novella Coleman, added that by denying the boy something as small as the eagle feather highlighted a deep disrespect for the entire district.
The 18-year-old graduate had a difficult start during his freshman and sophomore years. At the time of his enrollment at the high school, the Clovis School District had granted Titman a dress-code exception and neither he nor his mother believed that a second exception was required for the ceremony.
Image Source: Times Union