Whether you are a parent, a student, or have a loved one currently in middle or high school, we wanted to inform you of a recent case we fought involving the rights of a high school student.
In April, the Assistant Principals of Casa Grande High School approached student Maurace Zetino and told him that he could not wear his rosary outside of his clothing while on school grounds. They said that the rosary could be construed as a gang symbol, and thus it was not permitted to be worn in full view – even though Maurace wears it as an expression of his Catholic religious beliefs.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the law supports the constitutional right of students to express their religious beliefs.Students do not give up their freedoms and liberties when they step foot on campus.
Along with our friend Jay Sekulow at the American Center for Law & Justice, we sent a joint demand letter to the Principals at Casa Grande, informing them of Maurace’s constitutional rights to convey his religiosity. In 1969, in the case of Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Community Sch. Dist.,students wore black armbands to protest the activities occurring in Vietnam. The students were sent home and told not to return until they removed the armbands, but the Supreme Court found in favor of the students and stated that students could express their beliefs – even if not shared by the school – as long as they did not cause “material and substantial” interference with the workings of the school or the rights of others.
Maurace is not a gang member. He does not wear the rosary to offend anyone or cause any kind of raucous. He simply wears it as an expression of his faith.
After our demand letter was sent to the school, attorneys on behalf of the administrators quickly responded and said that Maurace could continue to wear the rosary, and that all disciplinary actions related to this situation would be removed from Maurace’s record. We thank the school and admire their prompt response and resolution of this matter.
If you have a student in your life whose liberties are in some way infringed upon at school, I urge you to take action and stand up for religious freedom. Being a minor student does not eliminate a person of his or her constitutionally supported liberties. If Advocates can help in any way, we are ready and available to do so!