Whew - at least someone in the story gets it:ALBANY, Ore. — Never did Jaime Salazar imagine that wearing a rosarylike crucifix to school would provoke a national stir.
But when Salazar, 14, and his 16-year-old friend Marco Castro were suspended recently for refusing to remove the religious beads because they were "gang-related," it thrust the issue into the headlines and has triggered questions over the evolving role of rosaries in religion, fashion and street gangs.
In the latest cultural take on a symbol that has gone from Catholic altars to Britney Spears' bosom, the rosary is blurring the lines of liberty and safety on campus.
Some call the rosary-gang connection a stretch and urge caution. But for educators and public safety officials charged with blocking fluid gang trends, rosaries have become one more marker to track suspicious activity.
"It's become part of the look," said Victor Castro, a detective and school resource officer who leads gang awareness training in Hillsboro, Ore. "They use it as a reminder of protection."
Surrounded by rosaries at the Rosary Shop in McMinnville, shop owner Seth Murray is troubled by the idea of such a sacred symbol associated with gangs. He said public officials should focus on behavior, not rosaries.
"If someone is engaged in violence, it doesn't matter whether they're wearing a rosary," he said. "You should not seek people out for that reason."