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Teen can wear Jesus shirt at school, board rules

By Kate Schwass-Bueckert, Allen Rollin, QMI Agency

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A Nova Scotia teen who was suspended for wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, "Life is wasted without Jesus," will be allowed to return to school wearing his shirt.

William Swinimer, a Grade 12 student at Forest Height Community School in Chester Basin, N.S., was suspended Monday for repeatedly wearing the shirt to class. That decision was reversed on Friday, according to the school board, after the story made international headlines and provincial politicians weighed in with criticism of the suspension.

Swinimer was suspended after being told the shirt did not follow school policy for non-discriminatory expression.

"We are supportive of students right to have religious beliefs in school," board superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake said in an earlier interview.

"The only time we would ever try to change message is when others student interpret the message as a criticism of their beliefs."

Swinimer was suspended because he was "defiant of a reasonable request over principle. Eventually this lead to asking him not to come to school with that shirt," she said.

On Friday, Nova Scotia PC Leader Jamie Baillie called the suspension "heavy-handed."

"The minister of education should note that this student is a Canadian with certain fundamental freedoms," Baillie said in a statement Friday.

"The heavy-handed tactics of the school board have trampled important rights that we all enjoy," Baillie said. "The actions of the appointed school board are far more inappropriate than a slogan on a T-shirt."

The school board said a facilitator will be at the school Monday to talk to students about the case and about expressing beliefs with fellow students.

Swinimer intends to be there, reportedly planning to wear his favourite shirt.


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