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School ordered to re-admit teen suspended for nose piercing

Posted October 8, 2010

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— A Clayton High student celebrated being able to return to school after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring Johnston County school officials to immediately lift her suspension for a nose piercing she says is part of her religion.

The emergency order allows Ariana Iacono, 14, to wear the nose stud, which she says is an essential part of her faith in the Church of Body Modification and school officials say violates the dress code.

"We are thrilled that Ariana can return to her studies," her mother, Nikki, said in a statement. "The school has wrongfully forced her to chose between her education and our family's religion."

"A mind is a terrible thing to waste. They were wasting hers one day, three days, five days at a time," the Iaconos' attorney, Jonathan Sasser, said.

U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard found that the Iaconos faced greater hardship in the curtailment of their religious rights than the school district did with its need to keep disruptions out of the classroom.

Teen suspended for nose piercing re-admitted to school Teen suspended for nose piercing re-admitted to school

"They wanted us to go through their procedures, there in Johnston County. And while that was going on, she would not be in school and we didn't think that was right," Sasser said.

Ed Croom, superintendent of Johnston County Schools, said that the matter was in the hands of the courts and declined to comment further, citing privacy laws regarding student records.

Attorneys for the school district argued that the dress code is neutral and doesn't target a specific religion and that the Iaconos hadn't exhausted all the proper procedures in challenging the suspension before going to court.

The lawsuit, filed with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, will continue with a Nov. 3 hearing to weigh a preliminary injunction that would allow Ariana Iacono to remain in school while the lawsuit plays out in court.

Ariana Iacono had been suspended since the beginning of the school year and ordered to attend South Campus Community High School for the rest of the school year.

The school system says her nose stud violates the dress code, which bans facial piercings, along with short skirts, sagging pants, “abnormal hair color” and other items deemed distracting or disruptive. The dress code has an exemption for religious beliefs, but school officials have ruled that Ariana Iacono's nose stud doesn't qualify for the exemption.

The suit claims that Ariana Iacono's religious rights are being violated, along with her mother's rights to guide her child's spiritual upbringing. It seeks that Ariana be allowed to make up missed work and suffer no more consequences for having the piercing.

Ariana Iacono says that her nose stud is an essential expression of her faith in the Church of Body Modification, which she joined in August. Her mother joined the church a year earlier.

"This nose stud is central to the practice of my beliefs, and I must wear it at all times," she stated in an affidavit attached to the lawsuit. "As a member of the church, I sincerely believe that this nose piercing is central to strengthening the bond between my mind, body and soul."

The Church of Body Modification has 3,500 members nationwide and was incorporated in Pennsylvania in July 2008, according to the lawsuit.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Mugu Oct 13, 2010

    The ACLU should be dealing with more prudent issues, like the constitutionality of the Bradley Amendment. Those fascists just want publicity and donations... they are not here to help anyone.

  • NoObamaCare Oct 8, 2010

    soyousay- Haven't seen a colored restroom lately.
    This is about respect for others and yourself. Now the teachers are going to fear disciplining anyone with the concern that they may be politically incorrect and God forbid hurt some teenager's feelings. She is getting a free education and should have to follow the rules just as other students do. If you don't then you pay the consequences. That is life. She is getting off this time, but wait until she is an adult and things don't go her way! No job, no nothing! Rules need to be set and followed from a young age. This sets the precedent for adulthood.

  • soyousay Oct 8, 2010

    Airborne..it is about following rules

    the "rules" are not immutable and sacred and immune from change. Some rules are insipid and in hindsight maybe even silly and occasionally fundementally flawed...that is when you challenge them, take the consequences for the challenge and there you go- the American way of belief and life. The status quo is a fluid thing and unless you are always looking backward at a past that was not there, it evolves. Seen a colored restoom lately?

  • NoObamaCare Oct 8, 2010

    It is not about evolving; it is about following rules, and not making up sorry excuses to get around structure and guidelines. Now that she has slipped through the cracks, others will surely follow suit and create new ways to get around the system!

  • lkanzig Oct 8, 2010

    how truely sad! whats with having any rules when you can do whatever you want, go to court, have the aclu back you and then keep on doing what you want. MUST BE NICE! gee if i go out and get a tax exemption status like this "religion" for something i beleive, just that mean i can break any rule that i want as well??? the fed gov has only given tax exempt status and has not identified it as a religion. this is according to whats posted on the church of body modifications website. this is just PATHETIC! the courts,aclu and this kids family should be ashamed of themselves. all this for attention PATHETIC!

  • soyousay Oct 8, 2010

    But before you go Bart..

    I am intensely flattered that you have been following my posts, I had no idea I had such a fan that I had catured your interest

  • soyousay Oct 8, 2010

    Bart.. Oh YEAH???? YEAH???

    brilliant and insightful, stutter? night, night

  • Bartmeister Oct 8, 2010

    Later kids...................

  • Bartmeister Oct 8, 2010

    Oh YEAH???? YEAH??? Well SOYOUSAY........... haha, you haven't posted one thread on this site in forever that was intelligent. All you got is copying other's comments and trying to make a clever rebuttal (that's a reply). Gett'n old Junior........

  • soyousay Oct 8, 2010

    bart..Better go cut the grass before dark Johnny

    speaking metaphocially or specifically to a person?