Sunday, May 07, 2006

I Don't Know Where to Begin

This story has me so angry. The principal and the students at this school need a lesson on religious tolerance and true Christianity.

A battle over religious expression in school turned into an expensive hat-shopping trip Friday for Brad Seelig and his father.
Brad has missed a week of classes at Green Hope High School in Cary (North Carolina) for refusing to remove his baseball cap, which he wears over his yarmulke, a traditional Jewish head covering. He's worried about anti-Semitism if his yarmulke is visible at school.
As a compromise, the Seeligs visited 13 stores at two shopping malls Friday to spend $100 for three hats that might be acceptable to school officials.
Paul Seelig, Brad's dad, said Green Hope Principal James Hedrick told him Friday that Brad can wear whichever of the three caps he wants Monday.
"We're being very sensitive of the religious nuances of the circumstances while maintaining discipline at the school," said Michael Evans, a Wake County school district spokesman.
While school officials hailed it as a win-win situation, the Seeligs were fuming over the fight.
"He's missing school and time being instructed to go shopping for a hat," said Paul Seelig. "It's silly."
The episode highlights the tension over respecting both religious expression and authority.
Questions of tolerance
Paul Seelig said Brad, 16, a sophomore, had been going through tough times until he rediscovered his religion last fall. This prompted Brad to wear a yarmulke to class in October. But on that day, Brad said, Assistant Principal Scott Brouthers questioned him about the yarmulke and told him "he needed Jesus in his life."
Yarmulkes are worn by Jews to cover their head in prayer as a sign of respect to God.
Not wanting to stand out, Brad said he chose to wear a baseball cap, with his name emblazoned on it, over the yarmulke. Even though Brad said he explained to Brouthers that he was wearing the cap for religious reasons, he said the assistant principal would daily tell him to take off the cap. At least twice more, Brad said, Brouthers spoke to him about needing Jesus.
Wake school district policy prohibits students from wearing head coverings of any kind. But the policy says schools should make "reasonable accommodations on the basis of students' religious beliefs or medical conditions."
Brad said any thought of even having the yarmulke visible again ended after classmates, who learned he was Jewish, told him he was going to hell.
Paul Seelig said the situation reached a climax April 28 when he received a call from Brouthers telling him he was suspending Brad for wearing the cap. Brad was allowed to return to school Monday, but he received an in-school suspension. He wasn't allowed to attend his classes until he removed the cap.
"It's not right for them not to allow me to practice my religion, but they'll let anyone else practice their religion," Brad said.
Hedrick and Brouthers referred all questions to Evans.
Evans said school officials also are investigating the Seeligs' complaint that Brouthers violated the district's code of ethics and standards of conduct. Evans said he couldn't discuss it further because it is a personnel matter.

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