VICTORY: Teacher Who Took Cross From Student Apologizes, Along With School Administrators


Jordan Sekulow

May 30, 2023

4 min read

Religious Liberty



The ACLJ has just scored a big win for religious freedom – one of our most sacred rights as believers and as Americans – and sent a clear message to anti-Christian bureaucrats not to mess with the faith of our kids.

Not long ago, we told you about a Tennessee middle school student who wore a cross around his neck to school. When the child entered the school library for a Book Fair, an event that many of us still remember looking forward to each year, he was greeted instead by a teacher who took the cross.

That alone would be startling enough to any kid, but this educator did so in front of numerous other students, as if to add to the child’s humiliation. 

Once we were made aware of this alarming incident by the student’s mother, we sent a legal letter to the school explaining in detail why the teacher’s actions were inexcusable and a violation of the student’s constitutional rights, not to mention psychologically harmful to the child as well.

As our letter stated, the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance in place at the time of our letter clarifies:

Students may display religious messages on items of clothing to the same extent that they are permitted to display other comparable messages. Religious messages may not be singled out for suppression, but rather are subject to the same rules as generally apply to comparable messages.

In other words, unless every other student in the school is decked out in clothing devoid of logos, quotes, product placements, or any other messaging or imagery in general that might possibly be offensive to someone, keep your hands away from our kids’ crosses or any other item of clothing or accessories. Certainly, the wearing of a cross necklace is not impeding the ability of other students to learn or participate in classroom activities. Had the teacher singled out a Muslim student or a child of any other faith – even an atheist student – odds are there would be a media uproar and protests outside the school.

Shortly after receiving our letter, the school reached out to the ACLJ to provide assurances that neither the school dress code nor any other school policy would impede our student’s rights to wear a cross necklace. 

This week, in another step toward righting this wrong, we attended a meeting alongside the student’s mom to sit down with school representatives, including the teacher who removed the cross. The teacher apologized to both the student and his mother, as did the vice principal and the community superintendent.

This is exactly why we created our Know Your Rights resource guide so you and your kids can know what is and isn’t permissible in public schools. One thing that is not only permissible but also protected is wearing a cross around your neck. We are pleased that our attorneys were able to resolve the issue without having to go to court, which would have been the likely next step.

Hopefully, this victory serves as an encouragement to students of faith and a strong message to educators who would otherwise seek to inflict their personal bias on Christian students. 

But we also remain vigilant, as the Biden Department of Education just released its updated guidance, which curiously removed language that prohibited schools from singling out religious messages for suppression pursuant to dress code policies, among other vital protections of which parents and educators alike may not be aware. If you are a parent who feels your child’s religious liberties are being infringed upon at school, please contact us so we can discuss and determine if action is necessary.