Catholic rosary beads banned from US high school as gangland symbol

Jake Balthazor, a 15-year-old Minnesota high school student, was asked to remove his rosary beads by school officials this week, as they say  the beads could be mistaken for a gang symbol.

A 15-year-old Minnesota high school student was asked to remove his rosary beads by school officials this week, as they say it is against their school policy.

Jake Balthazor says he wore the rosary beads, a gift from his grandmother who is currently suffering from breast cancer, to help him feel close to her.

“She has breast cancer, and I’m trying to support her for it,” he told CBS News.

But Balthazor, who is actually Lutheran, not Catholic, was surprised when the prayer beads landed him in the principals office at the Coon Rapids High School.

“They think it’s like a gang sign,” Balthazor said.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District student discipline policy forbids “any apparel, jewelry, accessories, or matter of grooming which by virtue of its color arrangement, trademark, or any other attribute (as a primary purpose) denotes membership in an organized gang.”

Mary Olson, director of communication for the Anoka-Hennepin School District, told “He was told not to wear it because it’s a gang symbol. He may not think of it as a gang symbol, but other students at the school may.”

The teenager was advised he could bring the beads to school if they remained in his pocket.

“He was told not to wear it again,” Jake's father, Chad Balthazor, told on Thursday.

“Jake is just doing it for his grandmother,” he said. “He’s not in a gang.”

“He was upset when he came home from school. A teacher sent him down to the office, but the reason he was wearing it was for his grandmother.”

The student’s ill grandmother was saddened by the school’s policy.

“I think it’s pretty bad,”  Sue Thompson told Fox News. “I’m really upset with the district.”