Judge Extends Order for Boy to Return to Public School that Suspended Him for Wearing a Rosary

June 10, 2010 - 8:11 PM
A federal district court extended an order on Wednesday that allows  a 13-year-old boy to return to his public school wearing his rosary until at least Sept. 10.

Catholic rosary.

(CNSNews.com) – A federal district court extended an order on Wednesday that allows  a 13-year-old boy to return to his public school wearing his rosary until at least Sept. 10. The boy, Raymond Hosier, had been suspended from Oneida Middle School for wearing a Catholic rosary, which he had worn since the age of seven after his brother was killed in a car accident.
 
Hosier, a seventh-grader at the school in Schenectady, New York, was suspended for the day on Monday, May 17 for wearing his rosary. School officials claimed the rosary beads were gang-related and that Hosier had violated its dress code, which prohibits students from wearing anything it deems to be “gang related.”
 
The school’s dress code, however, does not specifically mention rosary beads. But the student dress code says, "A student's dress, grooming and appearance, including hair, jewelry, make-up and nails, shall: ... Not denote, represent or be deemed to be gang related, included but not limited to bandanas, colors, flags or beads." 

It further states, "Students who violate the student dress code shall be required to modify their appearance by covering or removing the offending item and, if necessary or practical, replacing it with an acceptable item. Any student who refuses to do so shall be subject to disciplinary action."
 
On Tuesday, May 18, Hosier returned to school wearing his rosary and went unnoticed. On Wednesday, May 19, however, Hosier was suspended for the remainder of the week for again wearing a rosary.
 
The boy returned to school the following Monday, May 24,  wearing his rosary. At that time, the district suspended him indefinitely.
 
Hosier did not go back to school until a court issued a temporary restraining order on June 1, which said Hosier could wear his rosary to school.
 
On Wednesday,  U.S. District Court Judge Lawerence E. Kahn extended that temporary restraining order.
 
According to a press release from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the conservative group that represents Hosier, the extension of the temporary restraining order means that “school officials are enjoined from preventing Raymond from attending school while wearing the rosary outside his clothing through September 10, 2010.”
 
According to Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, the court case arguing that Hosier’s rights were violated will continue.
 
“It’s important that Raymond be permitted to complete this school year with his rosary in place,” Sekulow said in the press release. “By extending the order, the school district has a window of opportunity to utilize common sense. We stand ready to resolve this issue -- either inside or outside court -- to ensure that Raymond’s rights are permanently protected.”
 
Ed White, senior counsel for the ACLJ, said the public school district’s current dress code is foundationally unconstitutional.
 
“In this regard, the dress code is unconstitutional because it doesn’t define what is gang related,” White said. “Anything the school doesn’t like they could define as gang related, even the rosary beads that the boy was wearing clearly for religious reasons.”
 
Hosier was not wearing the rosary for religious reasons alone.
 
According to White, when Hosier was seven years old he witnessed the death of his older brother who was hit by an SUV.
 
“The family got those rosary beads as his brother lay dying there [in the hospital] and those are the same rosary beads that Raymond wears now,” White said.
 
Additionally, White said Hosier’s uncle, a former U.S. Marine, died three weeks ago from brain cancer and was one of Hosier’s many influences who taught him about the rosary.
 
“He wears [a rosary] for his brother and his uncle and for his religious reasons,” White said.  “Raymond’s uncle taught him, ‘You fight for what you believe in.’ That is even more reason for Raymond not to back down from his rights.”