Should Kids With Piercings Be Allowed at School?

Nose piercing as a symbol of religious faith
What happens when dress codes and religious freedom collide?

For Ariana Iacono, the jewelry she wears in her pierced nose is more than a fashion statement. It’s a symbol of her faith, a belief that modifying and manipulating one’s flesh strengthens the bond between mind, body and soul.  Her school, however, says the ring in her nose is nothing more than a violation of the dress code and grounds for suspension.

14-year-old Ariana and her mother, Nikki, are members of the Church of Body Modification.  The church’s website, which is not for the squeamish,  professes a belief in body modification as “one of the safest and most societal responsible ways to stay spiritually healthy and whole.”  They encourage piercings, tattoos, scarification as well as reconstructive and cosmetic surgery as means of controlling and subverting the physical biological development of the body.

And yes, it’s a real church, incorporated as a non-profit entity and tax exempt.

But despite the apparent legitimacy of Ariana’s s faith, administrators at Clayton High School near Raleigh, N.C., have suspended her for refusing to remove her nose ring.  Mom Nikki says in doing so, the school is violating it’s own dress code policy, which allows exemptions on religious grounds.

We pretty much flat-out asked them, what guidelines are you following? What do you need to establish a sincere religious belief? We were told that if we were Hindu, or she were Muslim, it would be different.

The ACLU has gotten involved and I believe it’s just a matter of time before Nikki’s suspension is dropped.  If the school is going to make exceptions to the dress code to accommodate a person’s religious beliefs, then they must make those exceptions for every religion.  Even one that seems so far afield from what might be considered mainstream.

But ultimately, I think schools need to get out of the business of telling students how to look and what to wear.  Dress codes are often arbitrary and based on little more than the personal preferences of those who created them.  Mohawks, blue streaks and nose piercings may not be your cup of tea, but they truly never hurt anyone.

Image: bubblemonkey/Flickr

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