OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has vetoed a bill that would allow Native students to wear tribal regalia at graduation.
SB 429 would have stopped 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.
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 similar situation happened to a Broken Arrow student in 2022.
Similar bills failed in 2020 and 2021, with previous versions dealing with religious freedoms.
Now, Stitt says this newest version specifically designed for schools would lead to a slippery slope of dress-code exemptions.
“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,” his veto message reads.
Several tribal nations in Oklahoma are reacting to Gov. Stitt’s veto of SB 429.
This bill, which would have allowed all Native American students in Oklahoma to wear tribal regalia at school ceremonies, is not controversial. It allows the students to honor their native culture and traditions. In fact, only one member of the Legislature voted against it. This is a popular, common-sense measure with no costs for the state or schools. We hope the House and the Senate will quickly override the veto to provide more freedom for Oklahoma students who want to honor their heritageChief Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
With this legislation, Governor Stitt had an opportunity to support religious freedom and families honoring their kids’ high school accomplishments. Instead, he’s chosen more division and insults to his Native American constituents.
To be clear, Oklahoma law protects the right of Native American students to wear tribal regalia and other culturally significant items during graduation ceremonies. This bill would have simply made those rights more clear, so public school administrators do not mistakenly violate them. That’s why the legislature approved this bill, along with other bills supported by tribes, with nearly unanimous, bipartisan votes.
I strongly urge the Legislature to override the Governor’s irresponsible vetoes of this and other important legislation.Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Cherokee Nation
National organizations are reacting as well.
The Governor of Oklahoma has failed to uphold his duty to the over 130,000 Native students in public schools in Oklahoma. An immense amount of pride and respect is shared among students who wish to honor their heritage and communities while they are recognized for their academic achievements. Governor Stitt’s decision to veto SB 429 sends a clear sign to our Native students that state leadership does not respect the political relationship between the 30 Tribal Nations and the state of Oklahoma. NIEA calls upon the Oklahoma Senate for a veto override on this popular and bipartisan legislation which would protect the rights of our children. We must not let partisan dissension get in the way of protecting the religious and cultural rights of our students.National Indian Education Association Executive Director, Diana Cournoyer
This is just another bill in a slew of vetoes by Gov. Stitt after he threatened to veto all Senate bills until his education plan is passed.
However, not all Senate bills have been vetoed since. On Monday, Stitt signed SB 613 to ban gender affirming care for all minors in Oklahoma.