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Hawaiian father furious when his daughter is prevented from walking at graduation in her traditional lei

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Sophia Noelani Iliana Benzon pictured after her graduation, who her family said was banned for wearing her lei.

A California high school senior was banned from walking at her graduation ceremony because she was wearing a traditional Hawaiian necklace, her family claimed.

Sophia Noelani Iliana Benzon was graduating from Eastlake High School in Chula Vista on June 7, and for the ceremony, she wore the lei around her neck.

But school administrators stopped her family in the gym just minutes before she had to walk along with the rest of her classmates.

Her older brother, Julián Benzón, claims that the school ordered Sofía to remove the necklace or leave the ceremony.

But that didn’t stop Sophia’s father, Kurt Benzon, from speaking his mind to one of the school employees, preventing his daughter from having her once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Sophia Noelani Iliana Benzon pictured after her graduation, who her family said was banned for wearing her lei.

The heated interaction was recorded and posted to TikTok by Sophia’s other brother, Kainoa, where it garnered more than 6.8 million views.

Benzon said the district already gave them advance permission for Sophia to wear the lei.

One of Sophia’s brothers explained that they gave her lei over the years, which made them very meaningful. Families with Hawaiian roots often give these garments to their loved ones on special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and graduations.

“It takes us years to get these lei, we don’t get them at every graduation,” the brother is heard saying in the video to the school employee wearing a sun hat.

“I’m so sorry,” the woman begins before Benzon interrupts her.

‘You are not sorry. “I don’t want to be excused, I want my daughter to be on that field walking in her traditional attire like all the other members of my family who graduated in the past,” Benzon said.

Kurt Benzon, Sophia's father, argued with a teacher and told her that he was not sorry for banning his daughter from walking at graduation.

Kurt Benzon, Sophia’s father, argued with a teacher and told her that he was not sorry for banning his daughter from walking at graduation.

The faculty member Sophia's father was primarily arguing with in the school gym minutes before Sophia had to walk.

The faculty member Sophia’s father was primarily arguing with in the school gym minutes before Sophia had to walk.

It was noted that Sophia’s two brothers were allowed to wear her lei at their graduations.

The woman in the sun hat realizes she is being recorded and raises her hand.

“You don’t have my permission to videotape me,” he said.

Off camera, Benzon responded, “It’s a public school, it doesn’t matter.”

At this point, the camera focused on Sophia crying, still wearing her pink and white floral necklace.

In the video’s caption, Kainoa claims that the school even went so far as to restrict Sophia’s access to her phone when they saw she was wearing the lei. Additionally, she wrote that she was forced to ‘say that she was not going to participate in the ceremony so they could contact her parents.’

While waiting for her parents, she was allegedly held in the gym while graduation took place.

“She was discriminated against and excluded from her peers as she cried in disbelief waiting for her family to arrive,” Kainoa wrote.

A police officer was waiting throughout the entire argument in the gym, and after two minutes of arguing back and forth, the officer spoke up and said that Sophia would not be allowed to walk if she kept her lei on.

In a post after the graduation fiasco, the Benzon family criticizes the school district for what happened

In a post after the graduation fiasco, the Benzon family criticizes the school district for what happened

Sophia shows up in the parking lot after the gym showdown. She refused to take off her lei and let her walk.

Sophia shows up in the parking lot after the gym showdown. She refused to take off her lei and let her walk.

‘We have six minutes, what do you want to do?’ the officer asks.

“Do the right thing and let her walk there,” her father responds.

He then points to his agitated daughter and tells her to go for a walk in her lei.

‘Let them attack you and see what happens. Get down there with your lei, darling.

According to her brother’s Facebook post, Sophia “kept her head up and walked away.”

Viewers of the TikTok video were confused as to why the school stopped her from wearing her traditional attire, with some even suggesting that the family take legal action.

‘I don’t understand why this is so important to the school?’ one person wrote.

Another person said she was also forced to remove her lei at graduation.

Many people commented on how quickly Sophia’s father intervened and defended his daughter.

“This dad is so amazing and stood up for his daughter. I wish I could give her a high five, hello,” one viewer commented.

The family ended up celebrating in the school parking lot and on the way home.

“We gave her more flowers in the parking lot and hugged our strong Hawaiian princess through tears on her special day,” her brother Julian wrote.

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