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!