A Native American girl was prevented from walking during her high school graduation ceremony Thursday because she was wearing a mortarboard adorned with a traditional feather and beads, the Arizona Republic reported.
LaRissa Waln spent the ceremony in protest with her family outside State Farm Stadium in Surprise. Waln said she was stopped at the stadium entrance by a vice principal of Valley Vista High School, who said she would have to wear a blank cap, KNXV reported.
"I was sad for a moment," Waln told the television station. "But that just means I get to be out here and stand up for what is right."
Although she did not walk across the stage, Waln still will be receiving her diploma, her family told KNXV.
Waln stood in protest outside the stadium with family members -- some of whom traveled from South Dakota to attend the ceremony, KNXV reported.
"It's not just for her, we're fighting for all the ones that follow her," LaRissa’s father, Bryan Waln told the television station. "There are other Native American kids out here that would love to practice their religion on graduation day."
LaRissa's brother, Corey Waln, who also took part in the protest, said he was allowed to wear traditional Native American beading and feathers when he graduated from Desert Vista High School several years ago, the Republic reported.
Earlier in the week, ACLU attorney Heather Weaver said the Walns could sue the school district, the newspaper reported. Attorneys for the civil rights organization sent a letter to the district, arguing the ban infringed on Arizona’s religious freedom laws, KNXV reported.
Dysart Unified School District officials responded, but said they disagreed with the ACLU's opinion, the television station reported.
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