06/02/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks
Albany, NY – On Tuesday, June 1, 2010, a federal judge ordered a school to reinstate a 13-year-old boy who was suspended for wearing rosary beads, pending the outcome of a hearing on whether the suspension violated his civil rights, as reported by The Journal News.
Oneida Middle School suspended Raymond Hosier two weeks ago after he violated a school policy that bans gang-related clothing. Rosary beads are sometimes worn as gang symbols. Hosier claims he wears the beads in memory of his younger brother, who was holding them when he died after a bicycle accident.
The American Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court, stating the suspension violated the seventh grade student’s rights to free speech and religious expression. The American Center for Law and Justice took the case gratis, claiming it was “deeply offensive” that the school called the beads gang symbols.
The suit was filed on behalf of Hosier and his mother, Chantell Hosier, against the Schenectady City School District and officials of the school, including the principal.
The suit pleads for the court to declare the school’s dress code and Hosier’s suspension unconstitutional. It also seeks a jury trial.
Hosier was initially asked by the school to either cover the beads by wearing them under his shirt or to take them off. Upon failing to do so, he was suspended. He then returned to school, stating he refused to attend class without the rosary, and was suspended again.
The hearing is scheduled for June 11.
There have been multiple schools that have punished students for wearing rosaries. In February, a 14-year-old student in Haverstraw was suspended for a day. In Texas, a high school student was told to stop wearing her rosary in September 2008.
The National School Safety and Security Services, a national organization that consults on matters of school safety and crisis preparedness, supports school uniforms and dress codes as a means to improving school security and safety. The organization listed four ways in which dress codes and uniforms aid in reducing the potential for conflict:
1. Reducing conflict stemming from socio-economic status, i.e., conflicts stemming from comments and personal attacks about who has better clothing and so on.
2. Reducing ways in which gang members can identify themselves which, in essence, is a form of intimidation and creates fear.
3. Reduces the risk of students being robbed to and from school, or for that matter in school, of expensive clothing, jewelry, etc.
4. In the case of uniforms, could help school administrators identify non-students, trespassers, and other visitors in the hallways who stand out in the crowd.
In recent years, celebrities including Lindsay Lohan, Dakota Fanning and Britney Spears have popularized wearing rosaries as jewelry.
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