How a Town Tripped Up Over the Star of David

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Maybe they should just ban all jewelry. Following a national outcry, a Gulfport, Miss., school is reviewing a decision forbidding high school junior Ryan Green, who is Jewish, from displaying a Star of David necklace. Saying that certain area gangs, such as the Black Gangster Disciples, an outlaw group operating along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, also used the star as a symbol, the board put the kibosh on the six-pointed jewelry earlier this year. "This has nothing to do with religion," said Frank Baskett, spokesperson for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, "This is a safety issue." Baskett said if school officials allow Green to wear his necklace, then all of the gang members will say they're Jewish and claim religious sanctuary to wear them as well. A reasonable argument, one might think, except that students are still able to wear Christian crosses and other religious symbols, some of which have also been adopted by gangs.

Rather than ban all such jewelry, the American Civil Liberties Union says everybody ought to be allowed to wear what they like. The policy, they claim, violates the equal protection and religious freedom guarantees of the Constitution and, review or not, is going ahead with a lawsuit to force the district to lift the ban. In the meantime, the ACLU plans to ask for a court injunction until the issue is sorted out. They may be disappointed. As long as the policy is applied equally, public schools, the courts have consistently held, can pretty much tell kids to do whatever they want as far as dress codes go. And that's where the Gulfport schools have gone wrong -- if they ban one religious symbol, they have to ban them all.