Though I think it’s usually dumb and misguided, I have a hard time taking issue with a company that institutes a dress code that prohibits visible, tasteful modifications — by all means, that sort of thing is up to the discretion of the owner. When it comes to a school board banning them, however? It often comes off as an arbitrary and thoughtless use of power. So it goes in Portales, New Mexico: 13-year-old Kierra Seales has been informed that the clear bead she wants to wear in her lip piercing is unacceptable, and that the piercing will have to come out while at school. Her mother, Nkoshe, is calling it a First Amendment issue:
|Photo credit: PNT / Mickey Winfield|
“If we could accomplish changing the wording of the dress code, both sides would benefit,” Nkoshe Seales told the board. “The students would feel like they have the freedom to express themselves, and the administration and staff would no longer have to make an issue of the fashion trend.”
The current Portales schools’ dress code policy for piercing states that no student shall wear nose rings or nose studs or any type of visible body piercing accessory with the exception of earrings in the ear. [...]
“The First Amendment is freedom of expression. Whether youth have First Amendment rights is still a legal question, but what is not in question is that they will (have them) some day,” Nkoshe argued. “Constraining them now from expressing themselves is no preparation for exercising those rights.”
Nkoshe has opened up a dialogue with the school board on the issue, and the board’s superintendent, Randy Fowler, seems open to reviewing the current rules and determining if a change in order. Nkoshe’s argument goes beyond a simple constitutional defense, though, and insists there are tangible benefits to body piercing:
“Piercing is a healthy and positive thing in some people’s lives,” Nkoshe said. “It encourages personal growth and self-discovery. Body piercing is the safest and most positive (expression) a youth could embrace given the alternatives of drugs, sex and gang violence.”
Well, I’m not sure those are the only alternatives, but … what do I know? Let’s see what the readers of the Portales News-Tribune have to say!
I wonder what this mother would think if Portales Schools went to using school uniforms? With the large number of students now, it would be helpful to the teachers if they knew who exactly should be on campus for safety reasons. Does she think teachers should also be able to express themselves by wearing what they would like and showing what they would like?
Hmm … well, the teacher issue seems like a bit of a straw man, but I’ll grant that if it’s a particularly problematic area, uniforms shouldn’t be discounted immediately. Even still though, aren’t piercings compatible with the institution of uniforms? One would think …
“I hope the School Board will remain firm in the set policy. Wearing a pistol on the hip, running naked in the streets are all part of self expression however thankfully there are laws and rules. Our schools are to teach. Teaching rules is part of education. This is why children are willful today.”
“Please change the rules for me because I am more special than all of the other kids who have gone through these schools and followed the rules. BULL!!!! I think it would be a very different circumstance if someone were to go into their place of business here in town and urinate in the floor. I think Ms. Seales would be very upset with you, and I don’t think she would be any happier if you told her that it was ok and should be allowed because you were just expressing yourself on the carpet.”
Oh, God damn it.
Mother protests school district policy on piercings [Portales News-Tribune]