Teen faces suspension over rosary beads

Teen faces suspension over rosary beads

HAVERSTRAW (WABC) – The parents of a high school student from Rockland County are demanding answers after their ninth grader was suspended for wearing rosary beads to school.

He was suspended even though the school doesn’t even have a policy banning them. So did the principal go too far? Jason Laguna is a former altar boy and proud Catholic. He got his rosary beads as a gift, thinks they look cool and sometimes wears them under his shirt at school. But last Friday, right before dismissal, he pulled them out on his way out. He was given a one-day suspension from Fieldstone Secondary School. His mother calls the punishment extreme, considering the 14-year-old is a member of student government and, according to his last report card, “is a pleasure to have in class.” Laguna says she was told the school has an unwritten policy regarding beads because they could be used to show gang affiliation. The principal claims it was insubordination, saying Laguna’s actions, “endangered the safety, health, morals or welfare of himself or others.” Jason was supposed to stay home Friday, but late Thursday the district superintendent put that on hold pending further investigation. . . .

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If the school has a gang problem there might be a reason to not allow beads. The school needs to enforce its rules.

The principal claims it was insubordination, saying Laguna’s actions, “endangered the safety, health, morals or welfare of himself or others.”

Oh, brother. :rolleyes:

Safety? If he didn’t try to choke anybody to death with his rosary, where’s the violation?

Health? How does a rosary endanger somebody elses’ health?

Morals? Oh, yeah, I’ve always known that praying a rosary puts everyone elses’ moral in danger. Give me a freakin’ break.

Welfare? Ditto above.

[quote=jfoges]If the school has a gang problem there might be a reason to not allow beads. The school needs to enforce its rules.
[/quote]

The article says this:

Jason Laguna is a former altar boy and proud Catholic…is a member of student government and, according to his last report card, “is a pleasure to have in class.”

Yeah, sounds like a gangbanger to me. :rolleyes:

Besides, this “unwritten rule” business is a bunch of balderdash. If the school wants to have a rule, then it better be in writing. “Unwritten” rules are too arbitrary and far too open to abuse or misinterpretation by individuals such as the principlam in question.

A danger to safety, health, morals or welfare of himself or others. :rolleyes: “Beam me up, Scotty. There’s no intelligent life down here.”

The article said that the school had an unwritten policy regarding rosary beads. The school can’t enforce a suspension on the basis of an unwritten policy.

Why not? If rosaries are used as a gang symbol, which they very well could be, then the school needs to enforce its anti-gang dress code equally, even if the offender is a student in good standing.

I don’t care if gangs use rosaries as a symbol or not, the school has NO RIGHT to ban them at. all. They are a sign of our Faith and we have every right to wear them whenever, and whereever we want.

How’s about expelling the real gang members for good and leaving the rest of us Christians alone.

Since numerous people are killed every year by vehicular homicide, then you should have your car taken away from you, even if you have a clean driving record.

See why it should be decided on a case-by-case basis, instead of by wholesale banning?

I’m pretty sure the school can ban any article of clothing it wants if it is for the safety of the students. None of us have any idea what is going on in this particular school, the principal may very well have a good reason for not allowing rosaries. Rosaries are not just used as religious items, they are also worn by people as fashion and jewelry. I have seen this many times. If the rosaries represent gang affiliation in this particular place than the school has the right to disallow them and the student in this situation should abide by the school rules.

This has absolutely nothing to do with freedom of religion or attacks on faith, it has to do with a school policy geared toward public safety.

You can lead a horse to water… :shrug:

No, because people need cars to get to and from places. People do not need to wear rosaries to school.

From the article;

He was suspended even though the school doesn’t even have a policy banning them

How can you enforce a rule that you don’t even have, and the rule being unwritten doesn’t fly. Parents are supposed to get a copy of the rules of dress at the very beginning to the school year so that they and the kids know what’s acceptable and what is not.

Also keep in mind the superintendent has already stepped into this. The super has put the suspension on hold so the boy can go to school on Friday.

From the article;

but late Thursday the district superintendent put that on hold pending further investigation.

This has everything to do with freedom of religion and if people in this country don’t stand up and start raising cain it’s only a matter of time before we lose those rights. Wake up people!

Yes cars may make it easier to pursue your livelihood, but ultimately, nobody “needs” to own a car. You can always move closer to your work, take a bus, ride a bike, etc… There is always some alternative. Similarly, I don’t need my rosary, but it is important for another end, saving my soul and finding answers to my prayers. Frankly I would rather be told I could never drive again than be told I could never pray the rosary again. Thus your distinction is essentially a false one.

Cars are needed to get to and from places, and making them illegal for to save lives would create a hardship on many people. On the other hand, no one needs to wear a rosary in school. Keep in mind this is not a discussion about banning rosaries, but about a school policy bearing the wearing of rosaries in school.

That simply isn’t true. You are conditioned to think that cars are the ONLY way to get between places, but millions of people around the world do without. And a thoughtful person can always find another way. The comparison was made by someone else, not me. And you respond that cars were necessary and rosaries were not. I simply suggested that wasn’t the case.

To return to the original subject, banning rosaries, IMHO, is wrong because in many ways they are essential to Catholic life, in my life, more essential than my car. Unlike gang symbols, we have a First amendment right to practice freedom of religion. (There is no constitutional protection from the hardship of walking or having to live by our workplace. Being able to drive is a privilege, which is often revoked for such behavior as drinking and driving). Rosaries are an essential part of that right for many Catholics. Few would suggest not allowing Muslims to interrupt their workday to stop and pray to Mecca, but we find reasons to create a double standard for Catholics. For me the need to protect Freedom of Religion, which is under threat in America today is far greater than the unlikely possibility that rosaries “might become gang symbols.” I was being polite originally in suggesting that this defense is a bit silly, but from my perspective it is silly and possibly a blatant construct to defend a practice that isn’t really defensible. Can you provide any evidence that rosaries are a common gang symbol in American schools? Is it such a threat to trump one of the most fundamental of American rights? The burden of evidence here ought to be very high.

First of all, I never said that cars were the only way to get places. I said they are needed to get places, there is a difference. As for rosaries being gang symbols, I have no idea whether or not they are. If the principal of the high school thinks they are and deems it in the best interest of the school to disallow wearing them as necklaces, then I think his rules should be obeyed by the student body. School principals do not need to justify their policies with sociological statistics, they have the discretion to create a dress code that will promote student safety. Also, the article never said that rosaries were banned at the high school, it said they were banned as necklaces.

In my opinion, the principal is an anti-Catholic bigot, hiding behind shallow excuses and abusing his authority.
Would he have done the same over a student wearning a Satanic pentagram?
I doubt it. Maybe the principal wears one under his shirt.

If wearing rosaries is a religious expression, which the article suggests it was for this young man, then YES a school official does need to justify his action because he may be infringing on the boy’s first amendment rights, and that may be done only when there is a need. Recently French courts have accepted dress codes that prohibit religious expression, because this can create conflict. Fortunately, US courts have never agreed. In the US school officials may have the discretion to create dress codes to promote student safety, but I would wager the courts will say that they cannot single out religious expression without proving need.

The Anti-Defimation League states it very clearly:
***General Rule: Courts generally find that dress codes which prohibit the wearing of religious attire or symbols are not a valid means of achieving discipline when weighed against students’ rights to religious freedom and free speech.

How do courts review dress codes that restrict the wearing of religious attire or symbols?
State regulations or school district regulations such as dress codes that affect students’ rights to religious expression are subject to a more rigorous standard of judicial review than regulations that do not affect such freedoms. For example, a school dress code restricting hair-length of male students, which might otherwise be permitted, is not a valid means of achieving discipline when weighed against the religious beliefs of Native American students. 79 Moreover, mere speculation about the possible disruptive effects of a student’s dress is not sufficient to overcome students’ right to freedom of expression. As a general matter, school disciplinary rules need not be highly detailed. However, when those rules implicate students’ rights to religious expression, courts require a higher degree of specificity.

Notably, religious messages on T-shirts and the like may not be singled out for suppression. Students may wear religious attire, such as yarmulkes and head scarves, and they may not be forced to wear gym clothes that they regard, on religious grounds, as immodest. 80

Can schools ban the wearing of religious symbols in an effort to stop gang violence? A ban on gang-related attire cannot restrict the wearing of religious symbols and will not be upheld where there is no evidence of disruption that justifies infringement on students’ religiously motivated symbolic speech. 81 In general, gang-related prohibitions on dress have not faired well in the Courts. 82 Indeed, they have been held to be void for vagueness in a number of circumstances. 83 ** *
adl.org/religion_ps_2004/dress_codes.asp

By the way, if any of you are teachers or school administrators, the case law here is actually, as the ADL suggests very consistent. Irrespective of how you may personally feel about the issue, I would not try such a ban at your school unless you are very well-lawyered up. :thumbsup:

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