SARATOGA SPRINGS (News4Utah) – The recent graduate says an administrator made the students open their graduation robes to inspect what they were wearing, and told him that if he did not remove his ta’ovala, he would not be permitted to walk in the ceremony at Westlake High School. 

Finehafo’ou Malohifo’ou explained that the ta’ovala is a woven mat-like skirt worn by Tongan men in formal occasions. He said it was a sign of his culture, and he wore it to honor his family.

According to Fine, the dress code for the occasion prohibited leis and any other item covering the graduation robe, but said nothing about what was to be worn under it. 

He hopes that by speaking out about the experience, the Alpine School District will reconsider the policy.