Alpine School District issues statement allowing cultural wear at graduations

Provo High student body president George Ngatuvai gives Jackson Howard a lei prior to walking with fellow Provo High graduates at Utah Valley University in Orem on May 29, 2013. Howard left high school 6 months prior to graduation in 1943 to fight in World War II. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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AMERICAN FORK – The Alpine School District issued a statement Friday allowing students to wear objects of “cultural significance” to graduations.

This statement is in response to many in the Alpine School District requesting change to what many called the “no lei” policy, as well as to comply with newly passed legislation, HB30, that allows “qualifying students to wear tribal regalia during a high school graduation ceremony. “

“The cap and gown issued by the school represent the uniform for graduation and should be worn appropriately and not altered,” Alpine School District spokesman David Stephensen said in a statement. “The recently passed HB30 expanded the graduation uniform, allowing cultural expressions for cultural regalia and objects of ‘religious and cultural significance’ for our qualified Native students and inclusive of other cultures. (Ie, Pacific Islander formal Ta’ovala and leis, feather, flowers, necklaces, etc. in moderation). Graduating students may be afforded the opportunity to wear objects of religious and cultural significance. “

“Additions to the cap and gown should reflect culturally significant objects to the students, families and their communities. They should not include representations of drugs, violence, political speech, flags or other non-religious or non-culturally significant objects. Students must obtain administrative pre-approval for adjustments to graduation wear. The cultural and religious objects should be worn appropriately and in moderation. “

In response to the district’s statement, Westlake High School administration removed its “no lei” policy from its graduation guidelines, and sent an email to parents Friday, reflecting those changes.

“In an effort to be sensitive to cultural traditions, we are supporting the district’s decision to allow cultural expression at graduation,” the statement read. “We are allowing one item to represent a student’s ancestral heritage to be worn over the gown.”

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Arianne Brown is a breaking news reporter for She also enjoys finding and sharing stories of everyday Utahns, a talent she developed over several years of freelance writing for various Utah news outlets.

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