School sued over nose piercing
RALEIGH (North Carolina) - THE American Civil Liberties Union claims in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday that a North Carolina school violated the constitutional rights of a 14-year-old student by suspending her for wearing a nose piercing.
The lawsuit from the state chapter of the ACLU seeks a court order allowing Ariana Iacono to return immediately to Clayton High School, which has kept her on suspension for four weeks since classes started.
The complaint hinges on Iacono's claim that her nose piercing isn't just a matter of fashion, but an article of faith. She and her mother, Nikki, belong to a small religious group called the Church of Body Modification, which sees tattoos, piercings and the like as channels to the divine.
'This is a case about a family's right to send a 14-year-old honour student to public school without her being forced to renounce her family's religious beliefs,' wrote lawyers from the ACLU and the Raleigh firm Ellis & Winters in a brief supporting the lawsuit.
The Johnston County school system has a dress code banning facial piercings, along with short skirts, sagging pants, 'abnormal hair colour' and other items deemed distracting or disruptive.
But the dress code also allows for exemptions based on 'sincerely held religious belief,' and says, 'the principal or designees shall not attempt to determine whether the religious beliefs are valid, but only whether they are central to religious doctrine and sincerely held.' That's where the school stepped over the line, the lawsuit alleges, saying officials repeatedly dismissed explanations of the Iaconos' faith by the family and their Raleigh minister. -- AP