Suspended student allowed to wear 'Jesus' T-shirt
The Nova Scotia student suspended from school for five days for wearing a T-shirt with the slogan "Life Is Wasted Without Jesus" will be allowed to wear it, the school board has ruled.
The student, William Swinimer, along the pastor of his church and officials with the South Shore Regional School Board met Friday to try to bring an end to a disagreement over whether Swinimer should be allowed to wear the T-shirt to class.
Swinimer called the board's decision "awesome" and said he will be wearing his T-shirt to school on Monday.
"Some people say you're not supposed to have religion in school. Well, every other religion is in that school and they constantly put Christianity down," he said.
School board superintendent Nancy Pinch-Worthylake said it will bring in a facilitator on Monday to speak with students at Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, Lunenburg County, about how to express their beliefs in a way that is respectful to all.
The board will hold a similar meeting for any interested parents.
Pinch-Worthylake said the board will use this incident as a learning moment for everyone, adding that it is time to move on.
"We're going to be working with students around how they can express their religious views and other views appropriately, and how we work together when those views may be interpreted or misinterupted by others," she said.
"So, the focus is off the T-shirt. Whatever T-shirts come to school on Monday with personal beliefs will not be an issue for us."
The board suspended Swinimer for five days when he refused to stop wearing the T-shirt. It said some students and teachers found the slogan offensive.
Swinimer, a Grade 12 student, said the slogan is an expression of his Christian faith.
The leader of Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative Party came to Swinimer's defence Friday. Jamie Baillie said the teen has every right to wear the shirt wherever he wants.
"This is the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All Canadians, including Mr. Swinimer, are guaranteed certain rights under that charter … He is exercising his right as a Canadian and I think the school board should stand up for that," Baillie said.
On Thursday, provincial Education Minister Ramona Jennex said she agrees with the school board decision to suspend Swinimer.
He wore the T-shirt every day to class for several weeks, even after the principal told him repeatedly to stop wearing it.
The devout Christian said the T-shirt is an expression of his beliefs, and he never intended to attack anyone else's beliefs.
"I believe there are things that are bigger than me. And I think that I need to stand up for the rights of people in this country, and religious rights and freedom of speech," Swinimer told CBC News Thursday.