An Illinois school admitted they overreacted Thursday when they asked a student to change out of his Halloween costume before being allowed to return to class.
Marshon Sanders says his Highland Park high school forced him to take off his Jesus costume after a handful of teachers complained. Initially school officials said Sanders’ outfit—a white robe, red sash, gold cross, and wig—violated school policy that prohibits costumes that “could be offensive or perpetuate a stereotype of someone’s culture, gender, sexual orientation, heritage or religion are not permitted,” but later changed their mind.
While some teachers found the high school senior’s outfit distasteful, Sanders says his intention was not to poke fun at the religious figure at all.
“I wanted to be Jesus because I just got baptized,” he explained to a local Fox affiliate. “He’s the most influential person in my life.”
Sanders’ mother, Angenetta Frison, encouraged her son “to dress as someone inspiring or uplifting,” and felt the school overreacted to her son’s Biblical attire.
“They realized they might have been premature and didn’t really assess the situation,” she said.
According to the Fox 32, Frison also wondered if the image of a Black Jesus rubbed some the wrong way.
“Race is an issue in our country,” Frison explained. “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?”
While school spokeswoman Melinda Vajdic said officials were concerned because “costumes trivialize” things, Frison notes that while she was on campus meeting with administrators about her son’s costume she spotted other students dressed as Moses.
Shortly before school dismissed, administrators released a statement admitting they were wrong.
“We initially were concerned that the costume could be offensive to religious sensibilities. Upon further review, we realized the student did not intend to be offensive.”
Interestingly enough, last year Sanders dressed up as the rapper Snoop Dogg and school officials didn’t seem to have any problem with that.