We recently assisted a middle school student in Texas, and his mother, who requested our help to ensure that the student is able to keep openly wearing his rosary while he is at school.
The student has worn a rosary to school to symbolize and express his Christian faith, which has grown especially important to him during his continuing fight against cancer that has appeared in his throat and lungs. On multiple occasions, however, teachers and administrators told him to remove or hide his rosary. He believed that hiding or removing his rosary would indicate that he is ashamed of his faith.
His mother discussed the matter with various school administrators and staff and they stated that requiring her son to remove or hide his rosary was supported by District policy. They also advised that her son might face disciplinary action if he continued to openly wear his rosary.
We sent the school district a letter explaining that the school’s actions violated the student’s freedom of speech. The letter noted that the district’s policies also supported our position, as one policy included a quote from the Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District stating that “[s]tudents do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” and another policy stated, “[t]he District shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the District treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject.”
The school district’s attorney reviewed the matter and advised that the student would be permitted to openly wear his rosary without further incident. His mother sent us an email saying, “Thanks so much for all your help in this matter. [My son] is very happy now that he can wear his rosary and not have to worry about getting in trouble. . . . I can’t tell you enough how thankful we are for all your help.”
The ACLJ will continue to defend the free speech rights of students wearing rosaries, cross necklaces, religious clothing, and similar expressive attire around the country.
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