Administrators at Highland Park High School in Highland Park, Ill., were reportedly so worried that a teenager’s Jesus Halloween costume would so offend “religious sensibilities” or promote the Christian faith that they initially pulled him from class and told him to remove it.
Marshon Sanders, a senior at the school, later told media that his costume was merely an attempt to idolize Jesus, not to disparage the religious figure.
“[Christ is] the most influential person in my life,” the teen told WBBM-TV.
Sanders is a practicing Christian who regularly attends church and was baptized over the summer. After going to school dressed as rapper Snoop Dogg last year which was apparently permitted by school officials, his mother, Angenetta Frison, told her son to choose someone more positive — and so he did.
But the district has a policy against Halloween costumes that could offend or create stereotypes surrounding gender, sexual orientation, heritage or religion, so Sanders’ holiday disguise created concern among school leaders, The Chicago Tribune reported.
The teen told WGN-TV that he was called out of class and down to the office during first period, where the dean chastised him for dressing as the Christian savior. He also indicated that the situation wasn’t just rooted in fear that he might offend, but that there also may have been a concern over him potentially promoting religion.
“I was taken down to the dean’s office and she said my costume was offensive,” he said. “That I was promoting religion, which wasn’t my intent, so that’s when she made me take off the crown, she made me take off the crucifix.”
Sanders’ costume included a toga, a cross and a crown of thorns — all sentiments associated with Jesus. While he was asked to remove these elements, school officials investigated the situation and later changed their minds.
“Upon further review, we realized the student did not intend to be offensive,” Melinda Vajdi, a spokeswoman for District 113, told the Tribune. “Therefore, the school communicated to the student that he could wear the costume.”
Despite the about-face, Frison said her son chose not to put his Jesus garb back on.
She also wondered in an interview with The Chicago Sun-Times if the fact that Sanders is an African American had anything to do with the school’s initial protest.
“Race is an issue in our country. We still struggle with racism,” she said. “I don’t know if that was a factor, but it may have been. Would a Caucasian student dressed as Jesus have had the same effect?”
(H/T: Chicago Tribune)
Featured image credit: WBBM-TV