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Lip service or defiance? THS student suspended for refusal to remove lip ring

Posted in Piercing News at 10:30 am by admin

Lip service or defiance THS student suspended for refusal to remove lip ringIn wake of the recent suspension of a Tehachapi High School student for allegedly violating the school’s dress code, the Tehachapi News went directly to Principal Cary Johnson for his input on the situation.

Because of student privacy restrictions, Principal Johnson was unable to confirm the identity of the student, although the student’s name had been released in a television segment on Channel 29 News.

Johnson was able to say that the student was “not suspended for dress code violation but actually for defiance.”

Repeated attempts to locate and contact either the student or the parents for comment were unsuccessful.

“We had spoken to the student on other occasions about the lip ring,” Johnson said. “And, in this particular instance, the student was given two choices,” he continued. “One: remove the lip ring and go back to class. Or two: Leave the lip ring in place and go home. The student opted to leave the lip ring in place and be sent home.”

According to television coverage of the incident, the student and parents indicated that the student planned to return to school at the end of the suspension period with the lip ring in place. When asked if the student was re-suspended, Principal Johnson was unable to comment specifically.

“Of course, the school staff would much prefer to have students in class and not on suspension. But if the student returned to school wearing the lip ring, he or she would be given the opportunity to remove it and go to class. If the student again refused, typically the student would be re-suspended,” Johnson said.

Johnson took over as principal at THS this school year. He came to THS from Highland High School in Palmdale where he served as Vice Principal in charge of special education for three years. He was in the Palmdale school district for a total of six years and was a teacher for six years before that, so he’s not new to dealing with students or school issues.

“I tend to take a tough stand when even seemingly small issues arise that potentially could create a safety issue for my students,” he said. “And I believe it’s much better to address them while they’re still small issues and before they have the chance to become big issues.”

The dress code serves other purposes as well, Johnson explained. He stressed that one of the primary concerns of the school and his staff is to keep students safe.

“With a strictly enforced dress code, it’s easy to identify non-THS students by their non-compliance to our dress code and thereby potentially avoid unsafe circumstances for THS students,” he said.

With the exception of pierced ears, facial and tongue piercing are clear violations of the current dress code. However, small nose stud jewelry is often overlooked, if not overtly allowed. Johnson said he would like to completely eliminate nose piercing as well, but since the dress code was in effect when he came on board, he doesn’t plan to make any changes in its enforcement for the current school year. Any changes to the dress code requires approval by the school board and other administrators and is not something he would have the final say about, he added.

When asked what they thought about the current dress code, students interviewed were mostly split between feeling the dress code was “livable” as-is, and that it “shouldn’t be so restrictive about facial piercings.”

Rosita, age 16, is a junior and she said she thinks the code is “Okay just as it is.”
James, 16 and a sophomore, thinks “all piercing is cool and an expression of the individual.”

Jessica, 15, a freshman, doesn’t “have a problem with small nose studs,” but said she thinks “other facial piercing shouldn’t be allowed at school.”

Dakota, 17, is a senior, “If nose piercing is allowed, then all facial piercing, as long as it’s tastefully done, should be allowed. Small lip rings and tongue rings should be okay,” he said.

He also thinks that sleeveless shirts should not be a violation.

William, 18, another senior, agreed with Dakota.

“If nose piercing is okay, then small lip rings and tongue rings should be okay as well.”

He also supported Dakota’s stand that sleeveless shirts should be allowed at school.


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  1. andrew said,

    May 7, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I think it is stupid to have lip rings and other peircings against the dress code because it doesn’t allow the student to express themselves. They say its a distraction and a safety issue to other students and thats bullshit. I have my lip peirced and it hasent got caught on anythig or distracted anybody yet so i dont see what the problem is.

  2. Chris said,

    August 15, 2009 at 5:14 am

    I think the schools these days have gone overborad trying to control teens. Piercings are a way to set yourself apart from everyone else. Schools should just lind their own problems and let the kids have piercings! After all, it’s not like someone is going to blow the place up with a lip ring.. right?