Piercing policy pains parent
Article Author: By Emily Dilbeck
Last Monday night’s School Board meeting also included a heated discussion between concerned citizen Steve Norwood and the Board over the piercing policy.
Last Monday night’s School Board meeting also included a heated discussion between concerned citizen Steve Norwood and the Board. Norwood, who wants the Board to amend their facial piercing policy, said he had tried for several months to get in front of the Board after an initial meeting in September of last year.
Norwood explained that his son Donovan has two lip piercings, which aren’t allowed under the current dress code. Norwood said the reason explained in the Student Handbook was because they caused a “disruption” to the class. He asked the Board how piercings could be a disruption, and said he thought a disruption was something like “this,” before proceeding to beat on a nearby bookshelf. Norwood added that he hadn’t been shot at in a war to come back to infringement of civil rights like this.
Director of Schools Dr. James Jones said he felt the piercings weren’t allowed because of a “Shock and Awe value”. Students might be distracted, and might make comments about the piercings during class. Jones went on to say it was about “appropriateness” and what is generally accepted in society. He said the Board allows earrings because these are generally acceptable and a well-known form of piercing. He said at this time, facial piercings weren’t considered appropriate.
Patricia Shannon, who was sitting in the audience, said she had several grandchildren in numerous Polk County Schools. She asked how it was fair for girls to have belly button rings, if other students couldn’t have facial piercings. She added she wasn’t sure she was agreeing with Norwood, but she didn’t think she disagreed with him either.
Norwood then read a passage from the handbook that said the School System wanted to allow students to experience “a rapidly changing diverse global society.” He said piercings didn’t push any sort of religious or cultural beliefs on other students, and were a way for his son to express himself.
Norwood said his concern stemmed from an incident last year at Copper Basin High School where his son was wearing Band-Aids over his piercings and was forced to remove them. He said the Band-Aids had covered the piercings, in order to make them not visible.
Jones said Band-Aids didn’t fix the problem, because students still knew Donovan’s piercings were present.
School Board member Mark Williams said students are only in school 35 hours a week, and have plenty of time outside of the classroom to express themselves.
Norwood presented pictures from the yearbook, where a photo of male students without shirts and with painted chests was taken at a football game. He said this would normally be a violation of dress code during school hours, so the students shouldn’t be allowed to go shirtless at games either, as they are a school function.
Mark Williams said the difference was that students weren’t forced to go to football games and could leave if something was disruptive, but could not do so while in class.
Norwood went on to say that his daughter had had a belly button piercing for several years while in High School, but had never gotten in trouble. He didn’t see how his son’s lip piercings were any different and thought ignoring belly button rings, which technically aren’t allowed, and allowing earrings was a double standard.”
School Board member Gary Silvers read a letter Norwood had sent to the Board last year explaining his concerns. In it, he noted a proposed amendment Norwood had created that would allow students to have no more than two piercings. “Why just allow two,” Silvers said, “If we allow two we should allow 500.”
School Board member Harmon Hardon added, “If we allow this, what’s to stop kids from getting studs all over their heads?”
Norwood said two had just been an example, and that the Board could pick a number of piercings allowed at their discretion.
Mark Williams asked Norwood if he had been allowed piercings during his time in the military. Norwood said No. Williams said they were trying to prepare kids to follow rules created in society, just like Norwood had had to follow certain rules in the military.
Norwood said he understood that Donovan wouldn’t get a job if he had the piercings in, but wanted his son to have the chance to be a kid while still in school.
Hardin countered by saying that Donovan wasn’t an adult, and before he was allowed to get piercings, Norwood, as Donovan’s father, had had to sign a parental consent form and present his driver license for his son to receive a piercing.
Dr. Jones said he hadn’t allowed his adopted son to have piercings or tattoos while in school, but that his son had them now because he was adult.
Norwood asked why Mohawk haircuts were allowed if piercings weren’t. Hardin asked if you had to present a driver’s license to get a Mohawk haircut. Norwood said No, but his parents had been present when he got his.
Norwood passed around a picture with three different couples on it. After the Board had looked over the photos, Norwood said it was a shame he had to do this to prove piercings weren’t offensive. Norwood then explained that each of the men in the pictures, some of whom had facial piercings, were the 3 men who died saving their girlfriends in the Aurora Theater shootings in Colorado. Norwood said he offered this as proof that piercings didn’t make someone a bad person.
Norwood said he felt like he was getting the run around, and asked if the Board would give him a final answer on whether they would amend the policy. School Board member Jayson Lamb said he would not vote to allow facial piercings.
Norwood asked who was the ultimate decision maker in this process. Silvers said the Board was, but that it received input from the teachers.
Williams added that input from the teachers had also encouraged the Board to change several dress code policies, including allowing students to have hair feathers.
“Hair Feathers?” Norwood said. “Are you serious?” He said he didn’t understand how hair feathers weren’t distracting, but facial piercings were.
Williams said this was because teachers were okay with it, and lots of students were doing it. Not everyone was getting facial piercings, so it was less acceptable.
Silvers concluded by adding that he thought the policy would one day change. “To borrow Dr. Jones’ word, it’s just not appropriate right now. I’m not saying it won’t change, but it won’t be now.”
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