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Defending Student Suspended for Wearing Rosary

A woman, holding her rosary, claps her hands in time with music during a youth rally for Pope Benedict XVI in Yonkers New York

I want you to know about a critically important case that we have just taken in New York State.

It involves a 7th grade student who was suspended by school officials for wearing a Rosary to school.  We represent Chantell Hosier, and her 13-year-old son, Raymond, who attends Oneida Middle School in Schenectady.  He was supended for two-days last week after school officials ordered him to remove the Rosary.  Raymond did not take off the Rosary.  He says it brings him comfort and honors the memory of his deceased older brother and uncle. 

School officials defended the disciplinary action by saying that wearing the Rosary violated school policy.  A school district spokesperson told a local newspaper that the rosary beads "could be an identifier of gangs" and needed to be removed "for safety reasons."

First of all, to equate a Rosary to a gang symbol is not only wrong, but deeply offensive.  The action taken by this school district - suspending the student for wearing a religious artifact - is insulting and inappropriate.

The Supreme Court has been very clear that students do not surrender their constitutional rights to religious expression when they go to school.

When Raymond returned to school this morning, wearing the Rosary, he was suspended again.  I have instructed a legal team to prepare a federal lawsuit to protect the constitutional rights of our client.

We have sent a Demand Letter to the school district letting them know that the disciplinary action they took against Raymond violates his First Amendment rights.  You can read our Demand Letter here.

The fact is that Raymond has been wearing that Rosary since 2009 without incident until last week when school officials told him to remove it because it violated the dress code.

What's clear to us is that the school in this instance is arbitrarily using the vague dress code to silence Raymond's religious message.  That's unacceptable.

We'll bring you additional developments as they become available. 

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