By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
Kierra Seales wants to be allowed to wear a clear, plastic stud in her pierced lip at school — something that is against the Portales Municipal Schools’ current dress code.
The plastic stud keeps her piercing open while at school, she said. According to her mother, Nkoshe Seales, the eighth-grader has been taken out of class several times and asked to remove the piece of plastic or to cover it up with a Band-Aid.
Nkoshe Seales addressed the PMS board of education at its regular meeting Monday to try to get the policy changed.
“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.
Kierra and her mom believe it is a First Amendment issue.
“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.”
“With the lip piercing,” Kierra said, “it’s my way of expressing myself and who I am.”
Kierra and her mother also presented the board with more than 200 signatures from people who think the 13-year-old should be allowed to freely express herself this way.
PMS superintendent Randy Fowler said the board intends to review the school district’s dress code policy.
“We’ve been talking about this, as administrators, trying to see if there were any changes (to the dress code) that need to be made,” Fowler said. “The board will look at this and see if it needs to be changed, but until they do, we will continue to do our best to follow the policy.”
Kierra’s mom also told the board that there are several positive factors in 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.”
No action was taken on the matter, but Fowler stressed that every effort is made to be fair to all students and parents.
“It’s always difficult to know what’s appropriate,” Fowler said. “Our goal is for students to be in school, hopefully to reach their potential.”