Teen suspended from school for wearing rosary beads

Teen suspended from school for wearing rosary beads March 1, 2011

It happened last month in St. Louis, and is still sparking debate:

Rodrigo Avila, 16, was punished for wearing rosary beads to school, his family said. He returned to school Feb. 25. His mother said Sunday that his use of the rosary beads was religious.

Law enforcement officials nationwide have linked wearing rosary beads to gang activity.

Superintendent Dennis Craft declined to comment Monday on the situation or on any disciplinary actions, citing confidentiality laws regarding students.

A Collinsville High School student handbook devotes a half-page to “prohibiting gang activity.” Though it does not mention rosary beads or any other items specifically, the school bans “any clothing, jewelry, emblem, badge, symbol, sign, or other things that are evidence of membership or affiliation in any gang.” Punishments for a first offense vary, but they include suspension for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10 days, the handbook says.

Craft said the anti-gang section was put into the handbook about five years ago. When asked if gangs are an issue in the school he said, “I think every large high school has issues such as this.”

Rodrigo’s mother, Julia Avila, of Fairmont City, said the boy’s godfather had given the beads to him last year for his Confirmation. She said her family was religious, attending Mass nearly every Sunday at Holy Rosary Catholic Church.

But she also said that she did not know why her son had chosen to wear them to school again after having been warned in October that he would face suspension if he broke the rule a second time.

“He wears it just out of the blue, I guess,” she said.

She said she thought the five-day suspension was excessive. She also thinks that they are being unfairly treated, and that other students are upset.

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6 responses to “Teen suspended from school for wearing rosary beads”

  1. I wear an Orthodox prayer rope on my wrist – recently on a visit to San Francisco, I was struck by how many young men I saw wearing one around their necks.

    Now I wonder what my students think the rope wrapped around my wrist means….

  2. Of course, rosary beads aren’t intended to be jewelry, and seeing them worn around the neck has always struck me as slightly irreverent.

    One problem I’ve experienced with carrying rosary beads in my pocket is that they break, and putting them in a case only accelerates the process. So I can understand the impulse to wear them around the neck.

    But given the abuse of using them as a gang badge, I’d think no devout person would want to promote the practice of wearing them, or to run the risk of being thought a gang member.

  3. Because of the mother’s response “He wears it just out of the blue, I guess,” I am not so sure what the main reason why this boy chose to wear the rosary.

    If he was a devout Catholic and it was a sign of his faith and if he were punished for that then I see there being a serious issue on religious freedom. But I am not sure if that was the case here.

  4. Driving a bus all day I see a lot of youth wearing rosary beads. I always thought they were showing their faith
    like wearing a cross. Even if they don’t totally understand it,
    and don’t understand that they are not jewelry.

    I had no idea about the gang thing. not good and I’ll keep my hope for the former although I am not naive and I can see some of the reasons they wear them are not religious.
    Maybe they’ll get it. Mother Mary will protect.

    At naturgesetz.. a ring rosary has always been good for me.
    sits in my pocket nicely and is always with me.

  5. Unfortunately just wearing a cross, Star of David, etc. doesn’t necessarily mean the person is a follower of the faith. Many, many crosses are worn for fashion, and the wearer isn’t Christian. I have seen rosary beads worn around the neck, (thought it would be uncomfortable) but knew they aren’t intended to be fashion statements. Apparently they are now gang related. He knew the rules and he knew the consequences. He is 16 and perhaps chose to push the envelope. So, he might think twice before breaking the rules again—or not. He’s 16.

  6. Rosaries are a gang item unfortunately, along with tattoos of Our Lady of Guadalupe, weeping faces of Christ and crucifixes all part of the “body art” now in vogue. Of course so called “Goth” fashion includes upside down cross earrings, cross pendents and rings and other religious symbols. The Rosary is used specially by Hispanic gangs.

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