RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge ordered a North Carolina school to admit a 14-year-old high school student suspended for wearing a nose piercing she says is part of her religion, and the teenager headed to science class yesterday afternoon.
US District Judge Malcolm Howard ordered the Johnston County schools to suspend enforcement of their dress code for Ariana Iacono and allow her to return to school immediately. The judge ruled that the girl and her mother are likely to prevail in the lawsuit filed on their behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“We are thrilled that Ariana can return to her studies,’’ her mother, Nikki, said in a statement released by the ACLU. “Ariana was an honor roll student in middle school, and she is eager to get back to her classes and continue with her education as soon as possible.’’
The lawsuit filed Wednesday claims school officials violated Iacono’s constitutional religious liberty rights.
The freshman has been suspended repeatedly since classes started four weeks ago.
The Iaconos belong to a small religious group called the Church of Body Modification, which sees piercings and tattoos as religious devotion. The church has 3,500 members nationwide.