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Constitutional Law

ACLU Sues Over Student Nose-Piercing Suspension Despite Church of Body Modification Beliefs

Posted Oct 6, 2010 6:49 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a school board in North Carolina over its suspension of a teenage student for having a peridot stud in a nose-piercing.

Because Ariana Iacono belongs, along with her mother, to the Church of Body Modification, the suit contends the suspension violates her constitutional right to freedom of religion, reports the Associated Press. Her mother and the family's minister has tried to explain the church doctrine that piercings are a pathway to experience their religion.

This is a case about a family's right to send a 14-year-old honor student to public school without her being forced to renounce her family's religious beliefs," writes the local chapter of the ACLU and the firm Ellis & Winters of Raleigh in a brief supporting the suit against the Johnston County school board. It was filed in federal court in Raleigh.

A photo of Iacono published by the Raleigh News & Observer shows a small, round apparent piece of metal about the size of a tiny earring in her nose.

"All we're doing is following board policy. Board policies are in place for a reason," schools Superintendent Ed Croom told the newspaper, which noted Iacono had been offered the opportunity to return to school if her nose stud was covered with a bandage.

A dress code for Clayton High School bans nose piercings but exempts offending articles worn due to "sincerely held religious belief," the AP article notes. School officials, the dress code states, "shall not attempt to determine whether the religious beliefs are valid, but only whether they are central to religious doctrine and sincerely held."

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "ACLU Supports Teen Suspended for Nose Ring Worn for Body Modification Religion"

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