Highland High student wins battle with APS to wear eagle feather for graduation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Highland High School student said what he wanted to wear at graduation is a symbol of success in his native culture. He said the district told him he couldn’t wear it, until now.

“I’m pretty much going to be the first one to have never dropped out, and graduate from high school,” said Alex Bean, a senior at Highland High School.

Bean is counting down the days to his graduation. Along with a diploma, he will earn something that’s been in his family for more than ten years.

“My Native tradition, we get to earn our feather from graduation because that’s one of the main things that’s a goal in life,” he said.

Bean said he planned on proudly displaying the eagle feather on his cap for graduation on Saturday, but when he presented the idea to the Activities Director at Highland High, it was shot down.

“The Activities Director said that APS won’t allow any alternations to the cap and gown,” he said.

The Activities Director referred Bean and his mom to the Albuquerque Public Schools Dress Code. The Graduation Dress Code said each school can determine what accessories are appropriate to add to the cap and gown, and cultural dress shall be worn underneath the cap and gown.

KRQE News 13 reached out to APS to find out why Bean was denied. A spokesperson with APS said the administrators at Highland High were all for Bean’s plans, but they misunderstood some of the guidelines. After doing some research and realizing the feather was a legitimate symbol of success and achievement, they are now allowing Bean to wear the feather during graduation.

Bean’s family is from the Lakota Sioux Tribe out of South Dakota. While they are not New Mexico Natives, he said graduation and the feather were the main goals he was working towards.

“It’s graduation. It’s one of the reasons why I want this because it’s what I get from doing this, as much as I have. I’ve worked very hard for it,” said Bean.

Bean’s mom said earning the feather is a huge honor in their tribe. It’s the same type of honor a warrior would receive if he successfully knocks his enemies to the ground without dying.

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