Jake Balthazor, Minnesota High School Student, Forbidden From Wearing Rosary For His Grandma

A high school student in Minnesota was ordered to put away the rosary beads he wears in support of his cancer-stricken grandmother, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. Officials at Coon Rapids High School north of Minneapolis say the black and silver rosary could be a symbol of gang membership.

Jake Balthazor, 15, received the rosary as a gift from his grandmother in March, and began wearing it daily to support her health -- she recently underwent breast cancer surgery.

"I feel safe, like she's right here with me," he told the Star-Tribune.

But school officials claim that they were told by the police that the religious beads have been used by local gangs and were recently added to a list of prohibited items in the schools.

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

He added: “Jake is just doing it for his grandmother. He’s not in a gang.”

A school spokesperson told WCCO that they are open to a compromise and that they didn't realize that Balthazor was wearing the beads in honor of his grandmother.

In a similar incident last fall, 12-year-old Elizabeth Carey in Fremont, Neb. says she was told by her principal she couldn't wear a necklace that resembles a rosary because of gang affiliations. Her parents asserted that their young daughter is not in a gang and expressed anger that Elizabeth was not being allowed to express her religious beliefs.