Last year, a sixth-grader from Fremont, Nebraska, was banned from wearing her rosary-like necklace at school. Now, months later, another religious flap is unfolding in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, where 15-year-old Jake Balthazor has been told that he cannot wear the rosary he purchased to support his cancer-stricken grandmother. In both instances, school officials' fears that the necklaces would indicate gang membership were cited as the basis for the bans.
"He was upset when he came home from school," Chad Balthazor, Jake's father, explained in an interview with Fox News. "A teacher sent him down to the office, but the reason he was wearing it was for his grandmother."
The decision to ban the black hematite rosary, which was purchased by the teenager in Mexico, was made by Coon Rapids High School leaders this past Wednesday. Jake has been proudly wearing the necklace in support of his grandma, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
While the student will no longer be able to wear the necklace -- at least according to official policy -- he is allowed to carry it with him in his pocket. Fox News has more about the intriguing anti-rosary policy:
The school district’s policy forbids any “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,” Mary Olson, director of communication for the Anoka-Hennepin School District, told FoxNews.com.
Olson said Coon Rapids police informed the district in early May that some local gangs, namely the Latin Kings and the Surenos, do use rosary beads as affiliation symbols.
“He was told [Wednesday] by staff not to wear it to school and they were not told he was wearing it because of his grandmother,” Olson said. “He was told not to wear it because it’s a gang symbol. He may not think of it as a gang symbol, but other students at the school may.”
"Jake is just doing it for his grandmother," the teen's father said, urging the district to revisit its policy. "He’s not in a gang."
On May 7, Coon Rapids High School Liaison officer Bradley Johnson sent an e-mail that highlighted the new-found issue that the community is having with rosary beads serving as violent gang symbols.
"A new issue came up recently that is interesting regarding rosary beads. Some gangs do use them as clothing symbols," the e-mail read. "The gangs identified around here that have been using them are the Latin Kings and the Surenos. I'm not Catholic, but I have been educated by friends that are and the rosary is not appropriate to use as jewelry or dress."
Both Jake and his grandmother, who has also stated her disdain for the school's handling of the situation, are Lutherans.
(H/T: Daily Mail)