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School bans rosary gang bling

Posted Friday, June 8, 2012, at 12:39 PM

A 15-year-old boy in the Minneapolis suburb of Coon Rapids has been told he cannot wear black and silver rosary beads to school because they could be a sign of gang membership. (See the story here.)

That may sound crazy to northwest Iowa folks like us, but it actually makes a lot of sense.

Apparently, police warned the district in May that members of Latin Kings and Surenos gangs use rosary beads as symbols of gang association. The school's policy bans "apparel, jewelry, accessories or matter of grooming which by virtue of its color arrangement, trademark or any other attribute denotes membership in an organized gang."

In this case, the color arrangement does not seem to be a factor, as the Latin King's colors are black and gold, while the Surenos use blue. Nonetheless, the type of apparel, unfortunately, could be misconstrued as gang-related.

While it bothers me that religious symbols, including crosses, are often used by gang members, there's not much that can be done to stop that trend.

Therefore, in this case, the school is probably doing the right thing.

The family disagrees because the boy is wearing the beads in honor of his grandmother who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Of course they are entitled to their opinion, but I think they should realize the ban is for the safety of their child and other students. Plus, the school said he could carry the beads in his pocket.

Is this a matter of freedom of speech and religion (even though the beads are being worn for sentimental reasons) or a matter of safety?

Let me know what you think!

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Rosary beads should not be worn in any fashion at all. They are not an accessory but a prayer of the highest reverence.

-- Posted by Leah Cauthron on Fri, Jun 8, 2012, at 5:46 PM

My opinion is it's extremely offensive for any bureaucrat, administrator, or official to dictate bans based on the false premise of "doing it for their safety." Rarely is that the case; more often it's simply about control. Wearing rosary beads itself is not a violent act. It violates nobody's rights by him wearing it, even if others find it distasteful. The argument that becuase it is "gang affiliated" and therefore dangerous or putting safety in jeopardy is absurd on its face and totalitarian in practice.

-- Posted by jlees on Sun, Jun 10, 2012, at 11:06 PM

I think that unless you have ever lived in an area where gangs are prevalent than you have no idea what the atmosphere is like. They have to take extreme measures to protect those that come to school to get an education in a safe environment. Metal detectors are extreme too but they are a necessity in some schools. Gang members have no regard for anyone other than the life of the gang and they have to be controlled.

-- Posted by Leah Cauthron on Mon, Jun 11, 2012, at 8:20 AM

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