Tuesday, March 01, 2011

IL School Suspends Christian for Rosary Beads

Such acts of censorship are not unusual in public schools across the country, as school officials often claim that the beads are a gang symbol. In response, students reply that wearing rosary beads is a protected act of free speech and an exercise of their religious liberties.

Read about the similar New York incident: Public School Ejects Catholic Student over Rosary

-- From "Downstate student suspended for rosary beads" by The Associated Press 2/26/11

Collinsville (Illinois) High School sophomore Rodrigo Avila tells St. Louis' KSDK-TV that he wore the beads for religious reasons and that he got them from his godfather as a gift.

But school administrators told him he no longer could wear them at school because they were considered gang-related, and after warning him, suspended the teenager.

The school's dress code policy does not specifically bar rosary beads but states anything associated with possible gang affiliation isn't allowed. Avila and his mother insist he's not in a gang.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Teen's suspension over rosary beads stirs debate" by Michele Munz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 3/1/11

The Rev. John Beveridge at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Collinsville said, "Among Hispanic people, wearing very visible signs of faith like a cross or a rosary is not unusual. Those things are part of devotion and prayerfulness. I'm not surprised at a youth wearing a rosary." He said he had never heard of the rosary's being gang-related. "I'm concerned for him and for others who might be doing the same thing out of devotion," he said.

Gary Peccola, president of the Collinsville Board of Education, said the Collinsville High School police resource officers had information that rosary beads had been used as gang symbols in the past. Peccola said that if a student had rosary beads in his or her pocket at school, no disciplinary action would be taken.

But students have been advised not to publicly display rosary beads on school grounds because of potential gang connotations, he said. The superintendent said the school district had to put safety first.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Students should be free to wear rosary beads" by David L. Hudson Jr., First Amendment Watch 3/1/11

In the 1990s, school officials in New Caney, Texas, prohibited high school students David Chalifoux and Jerry Robertson from wearing rosaries to school — using the same gang-related symbol rationale. The two students sued in federal court on First Amendment grounds and prevailed. In Chalifoux v. New Caney Independent School District (1997), U.S. District Judge David Hittner wrote that “surely there are a number of more effective means available to [the school district], other than a blanket ban on wearing rosaries, to control gang activity and ensure the safety of its schools.”

School officials should focus on punishing students who may be affiliated with gangs, rather than those who wear beads for legitimate personal and religious reasons. In the absence of a showing that rosary beads are causing a substantial disruption of school activities, students should have a First Amendment right to wear them under the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal student-speech precedent, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969).

The Tinker substantial-disruption standard allows school officials some flexibility if they can show that the beads are causing real problems. But the Court in Tinker also warned that “undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right of freedom of expression.”

To read the entire commentary above, CLICK HERE.