Colorado school takes boy’s rosary beads, says gang symbol
LOVELAND, Colo. — A student is questioning whether his faith or his fashion is under fire at his high school in Loveland, Colo.
Thompson Valley High School officials have confiscated his rosary beads twice since school started three weeks ago.
“They tell me I can’t wear them,” Manuel Vigil said, showing an identical rosary to the one seized by his school.
The junior said he wears rosary beads to protect himself from harm.
But his school district thinks the religious necklace will harm students.
“That’s typically not what we want for a safe environment for school,” Thompson Valley School District spokesperson Margaret Crespo said.
The district said they can be affiliated with gangs and disrupt learning.
Vigil said he is not in a gang and is a good student.
The 16-year-old said he and his family are strong Catholics.
“I use them for prayer. I feel safe when I have them on,” he said.
The district said it gave Vigil options before seizing the beads.
“We’ve given you two opportunities to take it off or to put it inside your shirt,” Crespo said. “That’s not something you’re interested in doing? You’re not giving us an alternative than to remove it.”
Vigil said he only got a demand.
“If he would have given me that option, I would have put it in my shirt,” he said.
Vigil’s classmates agree putting a bad label on a good symbol is wrong.
“If its for religious reasons, he should be allowed to wear it,” freshman student Jack said. “We have religious tolerance in this country.”
“It’s a necklace. Girls wear necklaces all the time and they never get them taken away,” junior Rachel said.
“They can say anything they want is disruptive,” freshman Adam said. “Just ‘cause they say it, doesn’t mean it’s true.”
None of the students wanted to give their last names.
Vigil said it’s ironic he’s getting in trouble for being a good and faithful person.
“I could see if I was out doing gang activity but I’ve never been in trouble with the law, never been in trouble at school,” Vigil said.
The bigger problem, the district said, is Vigil’s rosary had 13 beads per section, instead of the traditional 10.
That 13, they said, can be associated with the Sureno’s gang.
Vigil said he didn’t know that.
Many religious websites offer several rosaries featuring 13 beads.
Vigil’s other confiscated rosary has 10 beads.
He’s tried to pick them up from the office but the school said they’ll only give them to a parent and his mom can’t make it during school hours because of work.