• Wearing rosary beads results in suspension

    Date: 06.14.10 | by Judge Tom.

    When Raymond Hosier’s younger brother died after a bicycle accident, he was holding a purple rosary.  In his memory, Raymond started wearing the rosary to school.  In May, 2010, he was told to remove it or hide it under his shirt.  Raymond refused and was given a one-week suspension.

    Raymond is 13 years old and goes to Oneida Middle School in New York.  District policy bans gang-related clothing and jewelry.  The school claims that rosary beads are sometimes worn as gang symbols.

    Photo by Muffet (Flickr)

    Raymond and his mother filed a lawsuit claiming a violation of his right to free speech and religious freedom.  On June 1, 2010, a federal judge ordered the school to reinstate Raymond until the case could be heard.  A hearing is set for mid-June.

    Similar cases have occurred in recent years.  In a Texas school district in 1997, a student was disciplined for wearing a rosary to school.  The court ruled in his favor stating that in the absence of actual disruption at school, wearing a rosary is protected religiously motivated speech.*

    Do you find it offensive when someone wears a religious symbol to school?  Have you considered that there may be a personal attachment to it rather than a religious statement?  Isn’t it a matter of personal choice or should schools have a say in what you may or may not wear?  Assuming your school doesn’t require uniforms, do you know if there is a dress code and what it says?  Do you agree with it or not?

    In another case, 15-year-old Jake Balthazor wore black and silver rosary beads to school in honor of his grandmother who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jake is not a gang member but the school has a policy against any apparel that is gang related. Apparently in the Coon Rapids area of Minnesota, several gangs have been identified that use the rosary to identify members of their gang. The Latin Kings and Surenos were mentioned by the school as examples. Jake was told he could bring the rosary to school but not display or wear it. This happened in June, 2012.

    *Chalifoux v. New Caney Independent School District (Texas 1997).

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    • Michael
      Thu, 17 Jun 2010 at 05:08

      This is a tough call both ways. Dress codes have a legitimate purpose in many school districts that have serious problems with colors associated to various gangs. These colors can lead to an outbreak of violence. In a better world this student should have the right to honor his brother in any manner he chooses. I wonder how the school would feel about a tattoo instead of the rosary?
      Good point, Michael. Thanks for your thoughts