A federal judge issued permission Tuesday to allow a 7th grader who was suspended for wearing a rosary to return to school.
U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn issued a Temporary Restraining Order to the school district that allows 13-year-old Raymond Hosier to resume classes and wear the rosary to school starting Wednesday.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which represented Raymond, had only filed the federal lawsuit against the Schenectady City School District Tuesday morning.
“We’re delighted that Raymond can now return to school with his rosary in place,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “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.”
Raymond had been wearing the rosary since September 2009 to honor the memory of an older brother who died in a bike accident with the same rosary in his hand. School officials argued that the rosary violated the school district’s dress code policy and that it falls under gang-related symbols.
But for months Raymond wore the rosary without causing any disturbances, ACLJ attorneys pointed out. In May, however, he was suspended multiple times for wearing the beaded religious symbol. Authorities at Oneida Middle School asked Raymond to tuck the rosary inside his shirt, but he refused and was subsequently suspended.
In the complaint, ACLJ asserted that Raymond is not a member of any criminal gang and does not wear the rosary to promote gang membership or violence.
The ACLJ wants the court to declare the disciplinary actions by school officials against Raymond unconstitutional. It also wants the court to rule that the school’s dress code policy is unconstitutional and to prevent it from being used to punish other students in the future.
A court hearing date for the case is set for June 11.