A cultural ritual for an Indian tween girl in Utah turned into an ordeal for her family when her American school suspended her for it.
The AP reports Suzannah Pabla, whose father is a Sikh born in India (and hence wears a turban although he lives and works in the US), pierced her nose to connect with her Indian roots. Her school called it a violation of a body piercing ban and kicked the girl out of school.
According to the district, it constituted a cultural choice rather than a religious observation. But in India, where culture and religion are closely enmeshed, the nose piercing can mean many things. It’s been reported to be a sign of social standing and beauty, as well as a nod to Parvathi, the goddess of marriage.
So it’s clearly a cultural thing. Perhaps a religious thing. And hence a violation of Pabla’s first amendment rights. The school has relented a bit – they’ve allowed her to keep a clear stud (sort of a spacer?) in there during school hours.
But should it even matter? Should schools be weighing in on body piercing? By dictating what kids can and can’t do to their ears, nose, eyebrows, tongue, they aren’t just limiting what kids can do in school the way they are with baggy pants or too short skirts. Piercings, at least initially, need to remain in for a significant period of time in order for the hole to remain open. A kid who gets a pierced eyebrow on a Friday night can’t take it out Monday morning.
But even that is beside the point. What does a piercing do? Does it start a fist fight? Incite a riot? Although their may be a momentary kerfuffle when a kid walks into school with a new piercing, they’re generally quickly forgotten. Unless, of course, piercings are verboten. Then they cause quite the spectacle when a child walks into school with a new one.
Again, what’s the point? The piercing is painful to just one person – the kid who got them. And they’re often a passing fancy, one that’s worth getting out of the way when you’re a teenager rather than a twenty-two-year-old fresh out of college and attempting to get a job on Wall Street with six studs in your nose.
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