The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Oklahoma, has dismissed the federal claims against Caney Valley Schools and denied the motion for a permanent injunction with respect to the school district’s refusal to allow a senior student to wear an eagle feather in her graduation cap Griffith v. Caney Valley Pub. Schs., 15-CV-273-GKF-FHM (N.D. Okla. 01/05/16).
At the root of the dispute was Caney Valley’s policy prohibiting students from wearing decorations on their graduation caps. Plaintiff Hayden Griffith had been denied her request to wear the feather attached to her cap during the 2015 high school graduation ceremony, even though she asserted that it was closely connected to her religious beliefs in the sacred nature of eagle feathers. School leaders gave Hayden the option to wear the feather elsewhere, such as in her hair, on a necklace or carried in her hand. She did not take them up on this because according to her religious beliefs, an eagle feather, when worn, must be worn on the head and cannot be dominated by something else worn on the head.
Griffith filed suit against the district just before graduation, seeking a preliminary injunction so that she could wear the eagle feather at graduation. In the lawsuit, she alleged that the district’s policy violated her first amendment free speech and religious freedom free exercise rights. The motion for injunction was denied when the court concluded that she failed to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the case.