In public school debate, a piercing call for freedom
October 1, 2010
Filed under Archives
Is America really committed to our freedom of religion? Well, the First Amendment says so. However, Clayton High School’s student handbook disagrees.Ever since I can remember, the colors red, white, and blue were a sign of freedom. I was taught the colors of the American flag symbolized that my rights as a citizen of the United States were protected.
Recently in Clayton, North Carolina, 14-year-old high school student Ariana Lacono was suspended from school for wearing a nose stud. According to the Johnston County school system, Lacono’s nose stud violates the school system’s dress code. Lacono argues that she and her mother belong to the Church of Body Modification, a small group that is unfamiliar to most in rural North Carolina.
The Church of Body Modification involves significant alteration to the body. This includes piercings, tattoos, scarification, reconstructive cosmetic surgery, and many other ways in which the physical body can be controlled and challenged. A treatment ritual usually consists of body suspension, hook pulling, play piercing, fasting, binding, corsetry, fire-walking, and other rituals that test and push the limits of the flesh and spirit.
With the constant influence of media, I understand schools’ struggle to control students’ provocative displays, but I do not see why wearing a nose piercing should fall into that category. Showing too much skin is a perfect logical explanation for a dress code – allowing children to dress provocatively can detract from the learning environment. However, a piercing does not reveal anything but self-expression.
Lacono should be able to wear her nose stud to school not only because the dress code has no relevant reason to make it illegal, but because Lacono has the right as an American to practice her religious beliefs freely. The U.S. Constitution allows me to wear a cross around my neck to represent my belief of Christianity. I do not see how being able to wear a cross differs from wearing a nose ring to signify Lacono’s belief in body modification.
The Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” It implies that it is OK to exercise your right as long as it does not deny my rights. Therefore Lacono should not be penalized because her nose piercing does not deny the rights of others.
So if America is so free, then why is Lacono being penalized for practicing her belief in religion? Each time Clayton High School suspends Lacono they are sending a message to the rest of their students that you are not truly able to practice freedom of religion. In my opinion the school system is contradicting itself.
Each morning students presumably stand up and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The students as well as the teachers face the red, white, and blue flag and say, “with liberty and justice for all.”
Clayton High School is not demonstrating their belief in the true meaning of the American flag. If the school system makes it a tradition to recite the pledge each morning then they should reconsider how their actions reflect their beliefs in what it represents. Lacono is a true American standing up for her rights to freedom of religion. She is also setting an example to her fellow classmates that you should practice what you preach unlike Clayton High School.
Next time you see an American flag, ask yourselves this question: does America really represent freedom? If it did, then students like Lacono would not be getting penalized for freedom of religion, or even freedom of speech.