A bill introduced in the North Carolina legislature last week would allow for cultural expression at public school graduation ceremonies. 

House Bill 166 is titled the American Indians Graduating with Honors Act. 

The bill would allow any student who is enrolled as a member of a state or federally recognized Indian tribe to wear objects of cultural significance at their public school graduation ceremony. It specifically lists bird feathers and plumes. 

In recent years, North Carolina students have petitioned for the right to wear those objects at graduations in their districts. 

In some cases, it worked. Warren County Schools changed their policy on the matter in 2020, after initially denying Native students’ requests. 

Rep. Jarrod Lowery, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, filed the bill in the House on Feb. 21. It is now in the Committee on Federal Relations and American Indian Affairs, which will meet on Thursday.

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, there were 15,953 American Indian/Alaskan Native students enrolled in state public schools in the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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