Colorful beads lead to court Student claims Schenectady school district cannot ban her red, white and blue necklace By MICHELE MORGAN BOLTON
, Staff writer
First published: Thursday, February 17, 2005
ALBANY -- A Mont Pleasant middle school student is taking her freedom-of-expression fight to federal court, claiming Schenectady school officials have no right to ban her from wearing a handmade red, white and blue necklace to class.
The beads, which Raven Furbert got as a string-it-yourself Christmas gift, symbolize love of country and respect for soldiers serving in Iraq, according to the lawsuit her mother, Katie Grzywna, filed in U.S. District Court in Albany.
Among those soldiers is her uncle, J. Barnes, who is a member of the Army National Guard's 42nd Rainbow Division, and three other relatives. Barnes shipped out to Kuwait in October, and went on active duty in Iraq the first week in January.
Raven, 12, made the necklace over the Christmas vacation and wore it on her first day back to school on Jan. 4. She said it was to commemorate Barnes' move into a danger zone and that it is her way of trying to protect him.
She said she can't understand what the big deal is. "I just want to wear them for my uncle," she said. "I'll be really glad when this is all over."
Schenectady school officials immediately banned her from displaying her unique neckwear in a belief such "gang-related" jewelry violates policy, court papers alleged.