Friday, August 16, 2013

Hale ‘dismayed’ by school’s disregard for Diné culture

Hale ‘dismayed’ by school’s disregard for Diné culture

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), today said he is shocked that a Diné student was not allowed to honor his culture, religion and heritage by wearing his hair long at a Laveen school.

“I am dismayed that our children must still face this kind of insensitive and offensive treatment,” Hale said. “Arizona law prohibits schools from discriminating against students based on religion, and I've asked the Arizona Department of Education to look into this situation.”

Hale said he spoke with Karen Wilson, a woman whose 12-year-old son keeps his hair long in accordance with Diné tradition. Wilson said on her son’s first day at Legacy Traditional School, she received a call from the vice principal who told her the school’s dress code prohibits long hair. Wilson explained that her son is Native American and that having long hair is part of his cultural and religious traditions. Wilson said she was told she would have to contact the school’s superintendent. She left a message but received no response. Wilson transferred her son to another school that allows long hair.

“This incident does not appear to support the district’s stance on tolerance. I hope that the school will recognize the significance of hair to Diné students and will alter its current dress code to accommodate this religious expression,” Hale said. “I applaud Karen Wilson for working so hard to protect her son’s ability to honor his heritage, and I am proud of this student for embracing his culture. Although Ms. Wilson’s son is now attending another school, I want to know how we can prevent this from happening to future Diné students at Legacy Traditional School.”

Wilson said she would like an explanation.

“I’m disappointed my son had to go through this, but so many people have been supportive of our decision and I really want to make sure this doesn't happen again,” Wilson said.


Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012).  He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.


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