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Religion clashing with school...an always popular topic that seems to find new twists every academic year. Freedom of Religion and the Establishment Clause seem to have an especially hard time in the classroom setting. The latest conflict comes out of North Carolina where a 14 year-old student was suspended for nose piercing. And now the American Civil Liberties Union sues.
Ariana Lacono has a nose piercing as part of a small religion known as the Church of Body Modification. The Church believes that believes piercings, tattoos, and other adornments are a vehicle for expressing their faith. Ariana's school prohibits piercings, tattoos, and other adornments because they believe it is a vehicle for distraction and disruption. The school dress code does have exceptions to the rules based on religious beliefs, but the lawsuit claims the school decided a piercing was not part of her practice. Ariana has been suspended from her North Carolina high school for four weeks already, missing 19 out of the 28 days of school so far.
The Associated Press quotes portions of the ACLU brief: "This is a case about a family's right to send a 14 year-old honor student to a public school without her being forced to renounce her family's religious beliefs." Ariana's mother, Nikki adds, "We followed all the rules so I don't understand why the school is being so unreasonable. The dress code policy allows for religious exemption, and I explained to the principal and various school officials how my daughter's nose stud is essential the the expression of our family's religious values."
The suit is based on constitutional grounds, but seeks immediate action on the part of the school to allow Ariana Lacono back to school with her nose ring, allow her to make up the work she has missed, and not be penalized for her time away from school. The Church of Body Modification has 3,500 members across the country.