SAPULPA, Okla. – Many are confused after a senior’s request to wear cultural clothing to her graduation was denied.
Liseanne Yazzie is a senior at Sapulpa High School and instead of wearing heels or tennis shoes, she just wanted to wear traditional Navajo moccasins to walk in the graduation ceremony, but the district's policy won’t allow it.
Sapulpa Public Schools says it's standing firm by its graduation dress code that does not allow students to wear boots of any kind.
But that's not stopping Yazzie, who says she's fighting for her family tradition.
“I want to be able to represent my people and show that where I come from, I can graduate,” she said.
She planned on wearing a traditional Navajo dress under her cap and gown for the event. Yazzie says her principal sent her a statement saying she was not allowed to wear the Native America moccasins because they are calf-high and do not meet the dress code.
Now, friends and family are outraged, saying it's Yazzie's right to wear whatever she wants next Friday as she receives her diploma.
“I just don't think it's fair that they're going to be able to use a Chieftain as a mascot and then not allow native students who've been attending the school for several years to wear traditional clothing,” said her mother, Michelle Bear Robe.
A social media post explaining her situation has been shared thousands of times in just twenty-four hours. But Yazzie says for her, it goes way beyond the freedom to wear whatever she wants.
“Being able to represent who I come from and what has helped me go further and want to do more would mean a lot to me to show who I am on my graduation day.”
According to Sapulpa junior and senior high school Principal Johnny Bilby, boots of “any kind are not allowed at graduation and that's what the moccasins resemble.”
Despite the reaction, the district says it plans to stand by its decision to not allow the moccasins at the ceremony.
Yazzie says she'll still wear a Navajo dress under her cap and gown. She hopes the school will compromise.
“I've worked so hard for the past 4 years, and I've worked hard to get good grades in school,” she said. “It would mean a lot to me to show who I am on my graduation day.”
Principal Bilby says there will be counselors on hand at the ceremony to make sure every student is following the dress code. Any students not complying will be asked to change.
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