Court orders school to reinstate student suspended for wearing a nose ring
Iacono v. Croom, No. 5:10-CV-416-H, 2010 WL 3984601 (E.D.N.C. Oct. 8, 2010)
Ariana Iacono belonged to a religious group known as the Church of Body Modification. Through the practice of ancient and modern body modification techniques—such as piercings, tattooings, scarring—the church hoped to strengthen the connection between the mind, the body, and the soul. Iacono had a nose piercing that she believed the church required her to wear at all times. This directive conflicted with the dress code for all Johnston County Schools, where Iacono enrolled as a freshman in 2010. For her refusal to remove the piercing, Iacono was cited five times for dress code violations and received a series of suspensions. The final suspension was recommended to be long-term, with a placement for Iacono in an alternative educational setting.
Iacono sought a temporary injunction preventing the board from implementing the suspension and from enforcing the dress code vis-à-vis her nose piercing. She alleged that the board’s actions violated her right to the free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The court granted Iacono’s request for a temporary injunction.
The test for issuance of an injunction examines four factors: (1) the likelihood of irreparable harm to plaintiff if relief is denied, (2) the likelihood of irreparable harm to defendant if relief is granted, (3) the likelihood that plaintiff will prevail on the merits of her suit, and (4) the public interest.
The court found that the loss of a First Amendment right, even for a short period of time, constitutes irreparable injury to Iacono, while the defendant will suffer no comparable harm. Further, the court believed that Iacono’s claim had a substantial likelihood of success. Finally, the public always has an interest in preventing violations of the First Amendment.
summarized by Ingrid M. Johansenposted March 3, 2011