One parent is very upset after her son was told by school officials that he could not wear rosary beads to school because local police had advised school officials that many youth gang members were wearing the beads as a symbol of gang affiliation. Reportedly, 15-year-old Jake Balthazor was told that he could not wear the beads by a school administrator at Coon Rapids High School. The school district passed a policy to address the issue after receiving a memorandum on the practice from the Coon Rapids Police Department.
There have been numerous instances of violence at schools that were sparked when a student who is in a gang has become upset because a rival gang member displayed visible gang symbols at school. These situations can quickly escalate into weapons violence.
These types of situations are very challenging. School officials are often advised by legal counsel to take a similar approach because allowing any group of students to wear religious symbols can make it impossible for them to prohibit jewelry connected with youth gangs, satanic cults, hate groups or other organizations that might be upsetting to students, staff and parents. While these situations are often depicted in the media and by civil rights groups as centered on a Jewish child who has been banned from wearing the star of David (which is also commonly worn by gang members) or as in this case, a child who was wearing rosary beads and a crucifix, the reality seen in today’s schools can include a student with a swastika, a Klu Klux Clan symbol or other symbol that is disturbing to the average person.
These situations demonstrate the level of difficulty often faced by today’s school officials.