Anchorage School District Provides Updated Guidance for Cultural Insignia at Graduation Ceremonies

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – An Update administrative regulations of the Anchorage School District will more broadly allow students to wear cultural and traditional insignia upon graduation.

This new direction from the district comes after some students were barred from wearing cultural badges last year for graduation from West Anchorage High School. The school principal and later the district said it was a mistake.

The district has permitted the wearing of tribal and cultural insignia at its graduation ceremonies since an initial bylaw was passed in 2019, but Superintendent Deena Bishop said the district will review the policy following the incident last year.

“A student may adorn the cap, robe or stole customarily worn in their school with traditional items of tribal regalia or recognized items of cultural significance,” A press release of the district this week said. “Additionally, a student may choose to replace the graduation cap with a cultural headgear.”

School district leaders said they met and spoke with many groups before developing the new regulations, including the Indigenous Advisory Committee, Indigenous Leadership Clubs, Advisory Committee on Multicultural Education Concerns and experts. Alaska Native cultures.

“As we approached the early stages of developing this year’s new bylaws, the first thing we put on the table was to make sure that confidence was back in the situation,” said Paul McDonogh, District Native Programs Supervisor. “We bring district personnel from the authority perspective to come and observe and trust the families.”

The district’s work has had many contributors, and McDonogh said Nyché Andrew, a 2021 Service High School graduate, played an important role in ensuring the guidelines are compliant.

“Wearing my Yup’ik headdress was really important to me because to me, my headdress represents strength,” Andrew said in a video released by the district.

Andrew is Yup’ik and Inupiaq and currently attends Yale University. McDonogh said she started the first board resolution three years ago and it continued in the first settlement.

“The voice is really carried by Nyché,” McDonogh said.

In other states with large Indigenous communities, these policies are typically written at the state level, according to ASD Senior Director of Secondary Education, Dr. Kersten Johnson-Strumpler.

For more information on the ASD 2022 Cultural Insignias and Graduation Ceremony Schedule, visit graduation page.

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