Titman v. Clovis USD (Eagle Feather at High School Graduation)
Plaintiff Christian Titman, a high school senior at Clovis High School wishes to wear and display his eagle feather on his cap at his high-school graduation Thursday, June 4, 2015, in order to express and honor his Native American heritage and his family, his academic achievement in graduating high school, and for religious and spiritual reasons. The ACLU Foundation of Northern California, along with California Indian Legal Services and the Native American Rights Fund, and Christian Titman sought the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining Defendant Clovis Unified School District from prohibiting him from participating in his graduation ceremony at Clovis High School while wearing and displaying his eagle feather on his graduation cap.
Since late April, Christian and his parents have made multiple requests to the District that he be allowed to wear his eagle feather. The District has repeatedly denied Christian’s request. Wearing an eagle feather on his head during his high school graduation ceremony—an event of exceptional importance in Christian’s life—carries cultural and spiritual meaning for him as a member of the Pit River Tribe. Thus, it is both expressive and religious conduct protected by the California Education Code’s provisions relating to students’ freedom of expression and the California Constitution’s Liberty of Speech Clause and Free Exercise of Religion Clause. Because the District is unlawfully infringing upon Christian’s rights, and because he will miss out on this unique opportunity to commemorate his high school graduation while the District will suffer no hardship if he wears and displays his eagle feather during the graduation ceremony, we asked the Court to immediately issue a TRO and order to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not issue.
The hearing was set for June 1, 2015 in Fresno Superior Court and was continued to June 2. Between that time, Christian and the District entered into a settlement agreement allowing Christian to wear and display his eagle feather in his hair during the entire graduation ceremony. Also, Christian will be permitted to place the eagle feather in his cap after he receives his diploma cover.