WASHINGTON (Aug. 18)
A Jewish high school student and his family plan to sue a Mississippi school board that barred him from wearing a Star of David necklace.
Ryan Green, a student at Harrison Central High School in southern Mississippi, wore the pendant to class last week, but school officials told him it was a gang symbol and therefore violated school policy.
The policy forbids students from wearing anything that could be construed as a gang symbol. School officials said he could wear the necklace, but not where it could be seen.
The Harrison County School Board voted on Monday to uphold the policy, rejecting an appeal by Green’s parents, who said the star was a symbol of religious expression.
Law enforcement officials told the school board that such symbols could potentially make rival gang members turn violent, according to the Sun Herald, a Mississippi newspaper. Some gang insignias incorporate six-pointed stars, along with other symbols such as a pitchfork.
“I don’t appreciate calling the Star of David a gang symbol,” Green’s father, Tom, told the school board. The family has agreed to challenge the policy in federal court with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, said the school board’s decision was “clearly problematic.”
“On the one hand, no one would question a school’s ability to assure the safety of its students,” he said. “On the other hand, you have to be very careful where you draw the line. What would happen if he was wearing tzitzit, which goes even further than the Star of David” because it relates to a specific commandment?