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Brookings Superintendent apologizes for graduation incident

Brookings School Superintendent Klint Willert apologizes for an incident at Sunday’s graduation ceremony at Brookings High School.

Graduating senior Miles Livermont was initially told he could not wear an eagle feather attached to his mortorboard. High school staff and administration requested the feather be removed. Willert says the practice of preventing modifications to mortarboards or graduation gowns has been a long-held practice of the Brookings School District.

However, state law now says Native American students may wear tribal regalia during public school graduation ceremonies.

When Livermont’s parents realized the feather was not being worn, they were able reattach it to the mortorboard and he participated with the feather.

Willert says the Brookings School District honors and respects the significance of the sacred eagle feather and pledges to equally respect the law which protects tribal regalia and objects of cultural significance.

He also says the district will take the necessary steps to ensure students are allowed to express pride in their tribal heritage at future school ceremonies.

Willert says they have scheduled a meeting with the family to discuss this matter further.

 

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The full statement from Brookings School Supt. Klint Willert:

On behalf of the Brookings School District, I want to offer a sincere apology for events
that transpired at the graduation ceremony for the class of 2019.
After Miles Livermont, a graduating senior, was observed with an eagle feather attached
to his graduation mortarboard, high school staff and administration requested the
feather be removed. The practice of preventing modifications to mortarboards or
graduation gowns has been a long-held practice of the Brookings School District.
Following the request by district officials, Miles removed the feather from his
mortarboard. After an unsuccessful attempt to contact his parents to hold the feather,
Miles proceeded to ask a high school staff member to hold the feather for safe keeping
until the conclusion of the graduation ceremony.
As the ceremony was beginning, Miles’ parents realized the feather was not attached to
the mortarboard. They then located the feather and attached the sacred object to the
mortarboard for the graduation ceremony. Miles fully participated in the remainder of
the graduation ceremony with the sacred feather attached to his mortarboard. He was
awarded his diploma along with over 190 other graduates.
The Brookings School District honors and respects the significance of the sacred eagle
feather and pledges to equally respect the law which protects tribal regalia and objects
of cultural significance to be worn at a school honoring or graduation ceremony. The
School District regrets the misapplication of its long-standing practice of denying
modified mortarboards and gowns at graduation. Looking forward, the district will take
the necessary steps to ensure students are allowed to express pride in their tribal
heritage at future school honorings and graduation ceremonies. Specifically, we extend
our apology to Miles and his entire family and have scheduled a meeting with the family
to discuss this matter further.
On behalf of all involved in this matter from the Brookings School District, I offer my
sincere and heartfelt apology. We know that graduation often marks the final
experience in our school district for students and, unfortunately, Miles last experience
was not as joyous as it might have been. For that, we are truly sorry.

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