.- A federal judge has issued an order allowing a New York 13-year-old boy suspended for wearing a rosary to return to school immediately. The student may also wear his rosary when he returns.
School officials contended that wearing a rosary that included religious beads violated the school district’s dress code policy. They said the rosary is considered a gang-related symbol.
Oneida Middle School student Raymond Hosier was suspended under the policy.
His attorneys from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) argued that Hosier wore the rosary to express his faith in God and to honor the memory of a deceased uncle and a brother who died with the same rosary in his hands. He has reportedly worn the rosary since September 2009 without disruption to the school environment.
His attorneys asserted that Hosier is not a member of any criminal gang and does not wear the rosary to promote gang membership or violence.
Challenging the constitutionality of the dress code, the ACLJ filed a suit on behalf of Hosier and his mother Chantell Hosier against Schenectady School District and other school officials, including the principal of Hosier’s school. The student’s lawyers also sought a temporary restraining order to stop the school district from enforcing its dress code policy against Hosier in order to allow him to return to class.
U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence E. Kahn issued a restraining order soon on June 1.
“We're extremely delighted that Raymond can now return to school with his Rosary in place,” the ACLJ said in a statement. “This is an important first step in the legal process in what we believe will ultimately result in the federal district court determining that the punishment inflicted by the school district by suspending Raymond for wearing a Rosary not only was wrong, but violated his constitutionally-protected rights of free speech and free exercise of religion.”