Jesus costume prompts Highland Park school to pull student from class
BY JUDITH MASTERSON firstname.lastname@example.org October 31, 2013 12:50PM
Highland Park High School senior Marshon Sanders was pulled from classes on Halloween, a traditional costume day for students, after dressing like Jesus. | Photo submitted
Updated: December 31, 2013 2:37AM
Highland Park High School senior Marshon Sanders was pulled from classes on Halloween, a traditional costume day for students, after dressing like Jesus.
According to Sanders’ mother, Angenetta Frison, some teachers found his costume offensive. He was readmitted to school after changing out of the costume, Frison said.
Sanders’ costume included a long, white robe, red sash, head scarf and a cross necklace.
Shortly before school let out for the day, the high school released a statement, saying that upon further review, Sanders was told he could put the costume back on.
But Frison, who met with school administrators along with her son to discuss the matter, said he chose not to do so.
“They realized they might have been premature and didn’t really assess the situation,” said Frison, who wondered if the image of a black Jesus evoked strong feelings.
“Race is an issue in our country,” she said. “We still struggle with racism. I don’t know if that was a factor, but it may have been. Would a Caucasian student dressed as Jesus have had the same effect?”
Frison said she didn’t question her son’s choice of costume when he left for school.
“I encouraged him to dress as someone inspiring or uplifting,” Frison said.
But the costume ran afoul of school policy, which states that costumes that “could be offensive or perpetuate a stereotype of someone’s culture, gender, sexual orientation, heritage or religion are not permitted.”
Melinda Vajdic, the school’s director of communications, said the costume could be interpreted as poking fun or perpetuating a “religious stereotype.”
“Costumes trivialize,” Vajdic said. “I’m sure that wasn’t his intent, but we want to maintain a culture of mutual respect.”
Frison said she was told by a dean that two teachers complained that the costume was offensive.
“When I asked her what she meant by offensive, she couldn’t tell me,” Frison said. “He’s walking around dressed like Jesus, a religious icon. What’s offensive about that?”
Sanders was first informed he had to take off the large cross he wore around his neck before he could return to class, but was later instructed to remove the entire costume, Frison said.
Frison and her son are members of Jesus Name Apostolic Church in Waukegan. Sanders also attends Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington.
Last Halloween, Sanders dressed up as the rap artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg.
“They didn’t have a problem with that,” Frison said.