A school board overturned its controversial decision that prevented a Jewish student from wearing a Star of David necklace to school.
The Harrison County School Board voted unanimously Monday to exempt religious symbols from its policy prohibiting students from wearing anything that could be viewed as a gang symbol.
"My decision was based entirely on the safety of the students. But after consideration and a lot of soul searching, I think it's justifiable that he and any other student get to express their religion," board member T.J. Harder said after the vote.
The parents of 11th-grader Ryan Green had asked school officials to reconsider the policy, emphasizing that the Star of David was a religious symbol, not a gang symbol.
Security officials had told board members that some gang symbols incorporate six-pointed stars, and that the Star of David could be confused as such. On Aug. 16, the board unanimously upheld the anti-gang policy.
"They told me to take it off," said Ryan Green. "They just told me it was a gang symbol. They needed me to take it off. I was shocked. I didn't know it was a gang symbol."
The decision led to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and complaints from religious groups and others.
When pressure and national attention mounted after its decision, the board met last Thursday with members of the Jewish community and decided to reconsider its decision.
"We realized that it infringed on freedom of religious expression, and that freedom supersedes the safety issue," said Randy Williams, the board's president.
Tom Green, Ryan's father, declared the reversal a victory.
"It's a wonderful feeling," he said. "We are truly joyous. As a father to a son, this is the best principle I could teach him: Stand up for your rights."