Ordinarily the Gateway Sun would not identify a high school student in one of our stories, however in this case the student and his mother sought out NBC-2, and both of them gave the television network an on-camera interview which aired as part of a news broadcast.
At issue is a two-day school suspension for Gateway Charter High School student Christopher Roberts, who was suspended by school administrators for refusing to remove a rosary bead necklace.
NBC-2 reported that Roberts said he felt that Gateway Charter was targeting him for his faith.
However, since many other students at the school frequently wear smaller necklaces with the Christian cross without being suspended, it’s obvious that this has nothing to do with religion.
Gateway Charter told NBC-2 that Roberts’ necklace had to be removed for safety reasons, and also gave Roberts the option of tucking it in under his uniform shirt so it couldn’t get caught on anything.
Even after the suspension, Roberts remained steadfast.
“It’s not happening. I’m not going to take it off,” Roberts told NBC-2.
Roberts’ mother, Shannon, explained that her son has had a difficult time and is “clinging to faith” which is why the rosary is so important to him.
Fair enough, but when you look at the necklace it’s easy to see why Gateway Charter is concerned.
Even if they took the cross off of the necklace, or had a similarly sized necklace that wasn’t religious in nature which had a solid gold figure shaped like a Griffin (the school’s mascot) … the size of the necklace itself would still be a problem. The religious aspects of Roberts’ necklace are not the problem here.
Roberts, along with his mother, and Gateway Charter will have to work out this issue between them. But to suggest Gateway Charter was being discriminatory against Roberts’ religious beliefs isn’t fair to the school.
Gateway Charter officials said that Roberts was suspended for a dress code violation, and that he refused multiple opportunities to come in to compliance before he was suspended.
Since other students at the school wear religious symbols outside of their uniforms attached to smaller, thinner necklaces, it does seem as though Gateway Charter’s concerns were based on safety and not on Roberts’ religious beliefs.