WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (JTA) — A Jewish high school student has won a standoff with Mississippi school officials over his right to display a Star of David symbol in class. The Harrison County School Board voted unanimously Monday to exempt religious symbols from its policy that prohibits students from wearing anything that could be construed as a gang symbol. School officials had barred 15-year-old Ryan Green from wearing the Star of David symbol — a pin given to him by his grandmother — where it could be seen because they said it could jeopardize his safety. Some gang insignias incorporate six-pointed stars, along with other symbols such as pitchforks. The decision prompted an outcry from religious leaders around the country and a threatened lawsuit from Green’s family and the American Civil Liberties Union. “We realized that it infringed on freedom of religious expression, and that freedom supersedes the safety issues,” Randy Williams, the board’s president, said in explaining the board’s reversal. Jewish leaders hailed the move as an important victory for religious freedom that they hope will send a signal to other school districts around the United States that do not show enough sensitivity to the rights of religious minorities. Although religious symbols worn by students have rarely been a source of contention, a number of controversies have been generated in recent years by student-led prayer at graduation ceremonies and at assemblies. “We hope that this particular incident, resolved correctly in short order and with little fuss, will prevent other school districts from acting in a manner insensitive to the religious rights of students,” said Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs. For his part, Tom Green, Ryan’s father, was quoted as saying the victory is “a wonderful feeling.” “We are truly joyous,” he said. “As a father to a son this is the best principle I could teach him: Stand up for your rights.”
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