RALEIGH, N.C. - A North Carolina high school student can wear the nose piercing that's part of her religious faith under the terms of a legal settlement announced yesterday.
Clayton High School freshman Ariana Iacono was suspended last fall after showing up for class with a tiny stud in her nose, which she says reflects her beliefs as a member of the Church of Body Modification.
The school dress code prohibits facial piercings, but in October, a federal judge ruled that Iacono should be allowed to return to school, piercing and all. She's been attending class since that decision, pending a resolution of the case.
School officials initially decided to fight but chose to settle after weighing the costs of pursuing the matter in court, according to a written statement provided by a district spokeswoman.
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Iacono and her mother in the case, said the settlement was a vindication of the family's right to determine its own religious practice.
Under the terms of the resolution, Iacono can wear the nose stud as long as she remains a member of the Church of Body Modification, a little-known religious group that claims about 3,500 adherents nationwide and considers practices like tattooing and body piercing to be elements of spiritual practice.
The district also has to pay $15,000 in attorney fees and court costs.
The Iaconos and their Raleigh-based minister, Richard Ivey, said part of the problem last fall was that school officials dismissed the Church of Body Modification faith as not a real religion.