The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

School resinstates boy who wore “gang symbol”: a rosary

posted by jmcgee

Not long ago, I posted about a teenager suspended for wearing a rosary to school — which some considered a gang symbol.

Now an update:

Raymond Hosier is wearing his purple rosary beads to school again.

nm_rosary_beads_100524_mn.jpgA day after a federal judge ordered a New York middle school to reinstate the seventh-grader, who was suspended for wearing the Catholic prayer beads last month, the 13-year-old Schenectady boy is proudly displaying them again.

He wears them in memory of his younger brother, who died while clutching rosary beads following a car accident in 2005.

“Raymond believes in his heart of hearts that without the rosary, something’s going to happen to him,” his mother, Chantell Hosier, told “They make him feel safe — that’s the way he explains it. This child is still grieving.”

Chantell Hosier confirmed that Raymond wore the beads to Oneida Middle School on Wednesday after Judge Lawrence Kahn ordered the boy to be reinstated pending a hearing on June 11 into whether the suspension violated his civil rights.

District officials declined to comment when reached by, citing pending litigation, but they have contended Hosier violated a policy banning gang-related clothing such as rosary beads, which are sometimes worn as gang symbols. That led the American Center for Law and Justice to file a lawsuit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court arguing that Raymond’s suspension last month violated his rights to free speech and religion.

Hosier, 40, said she found it “absolutely offensive” that district officials included rosary beads in their policies against gang-related clothing.

“Raymond is not the only kid walking around wearing rosaries,” she said. “If that’s something that gang members are doing now, let’s take that up with the gang members, not Raymond.”

The lawsuit — filed on behalf of Raymond against Schenectady City School District and school officials — asks the court to declare the school’s dress code and the boy’s suspension unconstitutional. It also requests a jury trial.

Raymond received a one-week suspension for refusing to remove the beads or hide them under his shirt two weeks ago. He was suspended again last week when he returned to school wearing the beads.

“Raymond wants to wear his beads wherever his wants to wear them,” his mom said. “There’s absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to. And Raymond has learned so much about his First Amendment rights through this process — it’s actually been a wonderful experience for him.”

Continue at the link for the rest

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Mark Mitchell

posted June 3, 2010 at 6:17 am

I serve as a criminal court judge in a rural Georgia community and, unfortunately, rosary beads are being worn as a gang symbol.
As you can imagine Catholics are few and far between here. There are very few Catholics in our local area that I don’t know personally. I have had multiple youths before me in Court, who I know are not Catholic, wearing rosaries.
When questioned about it, it is obvious that they don’t what it is. One told me “It’s just a necklace.”
Of course, they could do a lot worse than hang a rosary around their neck, and maybe by the grace of Our Lady some of them may even discover what it is for. However, I cannot help but be sympathetic with the school officials here.
Because the street gangs have adopted the rosary as a gang badge, as bad as it sounds, if they come before me in Court wearing a rosary around their neck, unless I know them from Church, I know that I need to double their sentence.

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posted June 3, 2010 at 8:36 am

Being a former teacher, I want to side with the school system, however, I find myself more worried that the school policy is too broad and doesn’t take into account the religious aspect of the Rosarie beads. I am not Catholic but rather Presbyterian and this type of ruling is synonymous with education in today’s world. Rather than attack the root of a problem, school systems in general, punish or attend to the symptoms of what is happening. Let’s get to the root of these issues societally because the school system isn’t the place to address them and they are ill-equipped to do so at any rate. Their job should be to educate not ferret out gang members. It is easy to identify problems but solutions are what we all are looking for. My solution is to make each parent personally responsible for each child and their learning process. A failed subject will cost each parent 2 points on their drivers license and a fine. For those parents without a drivers license, they are brought before a court for neglect and charged. Parents are the key here, not the school system. We keep going down these “rights” roads and thats further down the line than we really need to go.

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Civitas Occiduus

posted June 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

Mark, as a current teacher, I can’t say I agree with you.
One of the key things that I teach in my high school history classes is personal responsibility. Mommy and Daddy aren’t always going to be around to protect you OR to punish you. Someday it won’t be that you handed in an assignment late and your grade goes down: it will be that you sent your mortgage check or your rent check late, and now you’re homeless.
I keep my students’ parents informed of their children’s progress, but in inner city schools like mine, we have no choice but to address the societal problems you claim aren’t the place for schools to solve. While I find this case of the boy wearing the Rosary Beads as part of the grieving process to be particularly heartwrenching, the bottom line is that in certain contexts, the Rosary around one’s neck is a gang symbol. And while parents must be involved in their child’s education, inner city schools like mine cannot always count on the home to help us fix problems — in some cases, they make them worse.
One week ago today, one of my African American students violently assaulted another student who is an African immigrant and called him a “punk @$$ n-word f’n Africa B–…” as she slapped and kicked him. Her mother was summoned and she congratulated the girl for standing up for herself. While your notion of holding parents accountable with points on the licenses and so forth is perhaps one viable solution, the much vaunted “get the parents involved” solution is no silver bullet. In the example I just cited, the mother doesn’t have a license.
Schools in SOME places where home life feeds into the problem must become the “new home” if real societal change is to take place. In a perfect world, we’d have boarding schools and children would see their parents on weekends. The school would give the child the high nutrition meals that practically all of my students go without (you should see them eat at lunch time!), the shelter some of them ashamedly hide that they must frequently go without, the loving & positive regard that they don’t necessarily receive at home, and the protection from the streets and gangs that they currently do not have. I certainly am not trying to stir up a hornet’s nest of “you think the state should raise children! Socialist! Totalitarian!” Far from it, indeed mine is a Catholic school, not a state school. I want to reiterate that I began this paragraph with “SOME places where home life feeds into the problem…”
As a current teacher, I can assure everyone that one of the few places in America that real, long-term social change is currently being sown is in the schools — and then not even in all of them. In my school, we have 60-odd rising seniors for our first graduating class next year and more than 80% of them will be the first people in their family to attend college. If school districts don’t take hard lines against things like this, then no one will ever bell the proverbial cat.

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Civitas Occiduus

posted June 3, 2010 at 9:32 am

“things like this” being gang symbols in schools. Sorry about the lack of clarity in my closing thought.
- Civitas

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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:24 am

I don’t like seeing rosaries being worn as jewelry, regardless of the reason. They are NOT jewelry, they are meant to be used as an aid to devotion.
I’ve seen young people wearing rosaries around their necks and have asked them what parish they attend. I usually get a blank look and an “I’m not Catholic” response. When I ask why they are wearing a rosary they say “What’s a rosary?”. They just thought they were beads with a cross on them…

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:30 am

This is a local case in my area, less than 10 miles from where I sit.
The child is not Catholic. He claims to be wearing the beads in memory of a deceased brother and uncle. He says when he wears the beads he feels closer to and protected by them… and that if they are under his shirt he does not feel that.
Sadly, these are not statements of faith. And more sadly, the young man has had behavioral issues at school before. He and his parents have a history of conflicts with their neighbors.
This case is about many things, but religion sadly does not seem to be one of them when you scratch the surface. Very sad.

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posted June 3, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Would the school have had the same reaction if the child was wearing a really large Christian cross? Many kids who are not Christian wear them as a fashion statement. Would they have had the same reaction if a student was wearing a Star of David…large or small? I wonder. IMO whether a student is allowed to wear a religious symbol or not may depend on the area the school is located in….not always an easy decision by school authorities. Many public schools now require students wear a uniform…to try and stop a lot of problems.

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Fr. Jim

posted June 4, 2010 at 11:23 pm

It may come as a shock coming from a priest, but I’d have to go with the school district on this one. First, from the perspective of Catholic sensitivity, rosaries aren’t meant to be worn, they are mean to be prayed.
Secondly, the gang connection potential is disturbing even if the young man isn’t a member of the gang.
He could certainly carry a rosary in his pocket – a not unheard of practice for us Catholics.
If I recall correctly, the first rosary wearer was the pop singer Madonna, and without being judgmental, it didn’t seem to be out of a devotion to Our Lady, particularly considering the outfits she was wearing with the rosary beads.
Just my two cents.

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