9th Circ. Reinstates Civil Rights Complaint Alleging Differing Treatment Over Graduation Cap Alterations | Law.com

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has reversed a district court’s dismissal of a high school student’s civil rights claims, finding that she plausibly alleged that she was treated differently when she was denied permission to add an eagle feather in her graduation cap in recognition of her Native American heritage.

Larissa Waln, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe, asked the Phoenix-based Dysart School District in 2019 to accommodate her religious practice by allowing her to have a beaded graduation cap including a sacred medicine wheel and eagle feather during the ceremony. The district had declined Waln’s request on the ground that the policy permitted no exceptions and she was not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony, according to the court’s 2-1 majority opinion filed Friday.

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