A student claims he was suspended for two days after refusing to remove his rosary when school staff asked him to.
Christopher Roberts, from Florida, refused to remove his rosary from around his neck when confronted by school officials who he says felt it was “gang related”.
The Gateway Charter High School denies the claims, saying it had nothing to do with religion.
It says he was asked to remove it three times as it could cause ‘injury’.
Christopher, speaking to NBC News , said: “It’s not happening. I’m not going to take it off.
“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.”
His mother, Shannon Roberts, said the rosary became important to Christopher since she took him to church several months ago and introduced him to Catholicism.
“He came from a difficult background. When children come from difficult backgrounds, they cling to faith,” she said.
She agreed Christopher could have been more “diplomatic” with staff, but said she supported her son’s decision to keep his rosary on.
She added: “I am proud of him. Yes, I think he could’ve been a little more diplomatic, but yes, I am proud of him.
“[Faith] is what he has in the middle of the chaos in his world, and I support him for wanting to have that right.”
School representatives denied Christopher was asked to remove the rosary over it being “gang-related” and said it was about following the school’s dress code.
The Lee County Public School Code of Conduct makes no specific mention of rosaries, but says jewellery that may cause “injury”, as well as any “apparel or symbols that may be gang-related,” is strictly forbidden.