School board is right not to allow feathers

The Scotland County Board of Education has been perplexed of late with a request from American Indian seniors who feel they should be able to wear their honorary eagle feather with the tassels on their caps during graduation.

We have also given this a lot of thought.

Along with big numbers in Robeson and Hoke counties, there is a large population of American Indians here in Scotland County. So it is understandable that the school board would want to take its time to mull over this request — and we also understand the board’s interest in trying not to ruffle any feathers, if possible, and keep everyone happy.

But elected officials must sometimes make a difficult decision, and this board did.

The request for Saturday’s graduation was denied. As a caveat, the American Indian students were allowed to wear the eagle feathers during the baccalaureate ceremony — which seemed like a good compromise.

On Tuesday, however, the Lumbee Tribal Council called an emergency meeting and unanimously passed a lengthy resolution in support of the American Indian students. This comes as no surprise.

We have since been educated to exactly what the eagle feather stands for among American Indians. We understand that the ceremonial feather is a sign of accomplishment, honor, maturity, leadership and more.

But we also understand that school districts must set a logical set of standards and rules — not only for dress codes within the schools, but also during such ceremonial events as graduations. Without these rules, we think we can all agree that things will quickly get out of hand.

The Lumbee Tribal Council, as well as those American Indian students and parents, should understand that they are not the only different religious or spiritual group in any school. And while the Scotland County Board of Education has tried to work with the American Indian students on this issue, to fully allow the request for the wearing of eagle feathers during Saturday’s graduation ceremony would open the door for the potential requests from any and all other groups represented.

We have changed our earlier thinking that the eagle feathers should have been allowed. We think the school board’s approval to let the feathers be worn during the baccalaureate ceremony is sufficient.

As for Saturday’s graduation … the lesson for these American Indian seniors is that, sometimes, we just have to accept “no” as an answer. They will find that out soon enough as they embark on the “real world.”

We also think that, if the Lumbee Tribal Council truly wants to show its pride and appreciation to its graduating students for their achievements, then it should hold a special ceremony of its own, among its own — much like many churches do for its graduating members.



“You can’t always get what you want …” (Rolling Stones)