Hawaiian Family Furious After School Objects to Daughter’s Traditional Attire

When his daughter’s school forbade her from wearing a traditional Hawaiian lei to her graduation, her impassioned father took to social media to vent his frustration.

Sophia Noelani Iliana Benzon wore a beautiful lei around her neck as she prepared to graduate from Chula Vista’s Eastlake High School earlier this month.

But Sophia and her family—some of whom were also wearing leis—were halted in the gymnasium by school officials minutes before she was to celebrate with the rest of her classmates.

Sophia’s mom and a teacher had a heated argument that was captured on camera and shared on TikTok. The instructor apologized but argued that the girl was not allowed to wear the lei since it was against school policy.

According to Julian Benzon, Sophia’s elder brother, the school gave her an ultimatum– either remove her lei or leave the event.

Sophia’s father, Kurt Benzon, yelled at the female school staffer who was preventing his daughter from experiencing her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Kainoa, Sophia’s other brother, videotaped the furious exchange and uploaded it to TikTok, where it received over 6.8 million views.

According to Benzon, they have prior authorization from the district for Sophia to wear the lei.

According to one of Sophia’s brothers, families with Hawaiian ancestry frequently give these clothes to loved ones on important events like birthdays, marriages, and graduations.

The father can be heard saying that he wanted his daughter to be out on that field walking in her traditional attire, just like all of his other family members who have graduated. “I don’t want to hear excuses,” Bezon said.

At that point, the woman realizes she’s being filmed and raises a hand,

Remarking that they don’t have her permission to videotape me.

Benzon shot back, correctly, that it’s a public school. Permission is not necessary.

At this moment, the camera panned to a sobbing Sophia, who was still wearing her pink and white flower headpiece.

Online users have praised Sophia’s father in other places for defending his daughter and their Hawaiian culture.

In the end, Sophia decided not to walk in the ceremony, preferring to rejoice at her house and the parking lot.