Student claims nose stud is religious symbol

Ariana Iacono

September 10, 2010 3:10:13 PM PDT
A fight over religious freedom is brewing in the Johnston County school system. A student at Clayton High School says she's practicing her faith by wearing a nose stud.

But that goes against school policy and she's been suspended.

Freshman Ariana Iacono told ABC11 she belongs to the Church of Body Modification.

The church says members reserve the right to alter their bodies for spiritual and other reasons.

"We believe that the mind body soul are all one entity and that by modifying the body, you can bring the mind and soul into harmony," explained Church of Body Modification minister Richard Ivey in an interview with ABC11.

Ivey says the church is a federally accredited religion, and Ariana and her mother Nikki Iacono are members.

"The purpose of my nose ring, is, basically, it makes me feel whole," Ariana Iacono said.

But in Johnston County, the stud violates the school dress code.

But Ariana claims it's in keeping with her religion. While the stud itself isn't sacred, its meaning is.

"I was abused for years when I was younger, and I have really low self esteem, and it kind of helps me look at myself in a better way," Ariana explained.

School officials wouldn't talk about the details of her case on camera.

"It's a matter of student record and we cannot discuss it," explained Terri Sessoms with Johnston County Schools.

But on the phone, ABC11 was told that the district's lawyer researched the church and made the judgment call that the nose stud wasn't necessary.

To Nikki and Arianna Iacono and their pastor, that shows a lack of understanding.

The Iacono's have contacted the American Civil Liberties Union hoping for legal representation. They say the Constitution is on their side and they won't back down.

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