A couple teenagers in Oregon were suspended because they wore Catholic crosses at school:
[Jaime] Salazar said Principal Chris Equinoa saw his necklace and told him to put it away. “I was like, why?” Salazar said. “He says it’s related to gangs.”
Salazar didn’t put it away. He was sent to the office. He went home instead. He got suspended for five days.
His friend, Marco Castro, faced a similar punishment. He was suspended for three days.
Equinoa said religious items are not banned. But, as principal, he reserves the right to ask a student to remove, or cover up, any item he feels could indicate gang affiliation even a crucifix.
The school district backs him up.
Principals have the latitude to determine the difference between genuine religious observance and gang symbols, said Jim Haggart, executive assistant to the superintendent.
The ACLU is (rightly) siding with the students:
David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon told the Oregonian that educators should proceed with caution. Their intentions may be valid, but they run the risk of violating students’ rights, he said.“When it comes to restricting any form of expression, school officials have a pretty high bar to cross,” he said. “They better have very specific evidence that’s more than just a hunch.”
A similar case involving two students in New Caney, Texas, who were prohibited from wearing rosaries because they were considered gang-related ended up in a court in 1997. The judge ruled in favor of the boys, calling the school policy vague.
More information is needed to sort through this story: how the boys interacted with authority, how they were wearing the cross (around their necks or out of their back pockets), etc.