A student was suspended from a Florida high school for wearing Catholic rosary beads to school.
Christopher Roberts was given a two-day suspension from Gateway Charter High School in Fort Myers, Florida, when school authorities spotted him wearing the religious item, which consists of a beaded necklace with a cross, NBC 2 reports.
Christopher said he received the punishment after he refused to take off the rosary.
"It's not happening," he told NBC 2. "I'm not going to take it off."
The teen's mother, Shannon, said that the rosary was important to her son because he is attached to his Catholic faith.
"He came from a difficult background, and when children come from difficult backgrounds, they cling to faith," she told NBC 2.
"That's what he has in the middle of chaos in his world," she said of Christopher's faith. "So now I'm not surprised. I support him for wanting to have that right."
School administrators told the family the rosary was a dress code violation.
Shannon said she was given a number of reasons why her son was asked to remove the item, including that the rosary was gang-related, although the school has denied this.
"Do I look like a gang member to you? Do I look like somebody who runs around with tattoos and guns and sells drugs? No, I'm doing it strictly for my faith," Christopher said in response to the school's alleged reasoning.
Although the Lee County Public School Code of Conduct does not specifically forbid rosaries, it does ban jewelry that could cause injury.
Shannon said she supports her son's decision not to take the rosary off.
"I am proud of him," she said. "Yes, I think he could've been a little more diplomatic, but yes, I am proud of him."
This was not the first time a public school student has been disciplined for wearing a religious accessory to school. In 2010, a 13-year-old student at Oneida Middle School in Schenectady, New York, sued his school district for civil rights violations after receiving a one-week suspension for refusing to take off his prayer beads, USA Today reported at the time.