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Cedar City family upset after school removes daughter's graduation cap with Native American symbols

Posted at 8:25 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 22:53:24-04

CEDAR CITY, Utah — Graduation day for Canyon View High School was Monday, and students lined up early to get ready.

One of those was Trinidad Cervantes, a good student who was also a varsity basketball player.

She was ready to graduate with her family watching.

“We were getting ready to go, and one of the teachers called me over and said, 'You can’t have your cap decorated,'” Trinidad told FOX 13.

She had added bead work and an eagle feather to her cap to symbolize her Native American heritage.

While normally the designs wouldn’t be allowed, Trinidad's aunt had called the school and ask them if it would be okay to make those additions.

The family says the school agreed, so they began working on her cap. It wasn’t until the ceremony that she realized it would be a problem.

The principal told her that she must remove her cap and that he was sorry to go back on their promise, according to Trinidad.

“I was just frustrated,” she said, “and just happy to get it over with. Glad that I didn’t have to go back to the school ever again.”

Principal Dennis Heaton sent a statement on the matter to FOX 13, saying:

“Iron County School District does not have a district-wide policy on graduation attire. Individual schools and their administrators, however, have made policies regarding standards for graduation attire. Cedar High School and Canyon View High School prohibit graduates from decorating or altering the top, flat portion of the mortar board cap in any form. In the past, mortar boards have been decorated in ways that detract from the ceremony--some being inappropriate and offensive. That being the case, a wide variety of accoutrements can be worn with the graduation attire to reflect culture, traditions and individuality.”

The family said they wouldn't have customized the cap if they weren’t given the OK.

"We wouldn’t have done it," Trinidad's mom Nikki Cervantes said. "We would have abided by the rules."

The family hopes they can share their ordeal to let others know about the uncomfortable situation that occurred. They also want to help others to realize and clarify the importance of these symbols.

A similar incident happened two years ago with a Native American graduate from Lehi High School.

“I am hoping that they will pass a law like they did in other states so that as Native Americans, we could be able to have our caps beaded to be able to show our heritage and be proud,” Nikki said. "I just don’t want anybody else to have to go through this. Seeing my daughter walk without her cap… was kind of heartbreaking.”