1. Headline
  1. Headline
Ariana Iacono
Jim R. Bounds  /  AP
Ariana Iacono, 14, poses for a photograph in Clayton, N.C.
updated 10/8/2010 12:58:39 PM ET 2010-10-08T16:58:39

A federal judge ordered a North Carolina school to admit a 14-year-old high school student suspended for wearing a nose piercing she says is part of her religion, and the teenager was on her way to science class Friday afternoon, her attorney said.

U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard announced his decision allowing Ariana Iacono to return to school during a hearing, said her attorney, Jon Sasser.

"She's very excited," Sasser said. "She's a very bright kid, and they should really be encouraging her."

The Johnston County school system has a dress code banning facial piercings, but allows for exemptions based on religious beliefs.

An attorney for the Johnston County school district, Neal Ramee, declined comment.

    1. Labor of love: Teen doula helps young moms through childbirth
      Courtesy Allie Sakowicz

      Illinois high school senior provides pregnant teen girls support during labor and delivery.

    2. 10 ways to not embarrass your kids on Facebook
    3. What do Joan Crawford, Angelina Jolie and Lucille Ball have in common?
    4. 9/11 coloring book draws controversy
    5. Mom secrets: Even the TODAY Moms editor has them


Ariana will be able to attend Clayton High School with her nose stud at least until Nov. 3, Sasser said, when another hearing is scheduled.

Sasser and the American Civil Liberties Union sued Wednesday, claiming school officials violated Iacono's constitutional religious liberty rights. The freshman has been suspended repeatedly since classes started four weeks ago. She and her mother, Nikki, claim the nose piercing is part of their faith, not a fashion statement.

The Iaconos belong to a small religious group called the Church of Body Modification, which sees piercings and tattoos as religious devotion. The church has 3,500 members nationwide and was incorporated in Pennsylvania in July 2008, according to the lawsuit.

A call to Nikki Iacono was not immediately returned.

Richard Ivey, the Iaconos' Raleigh minister in the Church of Body Modification, said the temporary order is encouraging.

"It's a great step toward justice," he said.

The Johnston County school system has a dress code banning facial piercings, along with short skirts, sagging pants, "abnormal hair color" and other items deemed distracting or disruptive.

But the dress code also allows for exemptions based on "sincerely held religious belief," and says, "the principal or designees shall not attempt to determine whether the religious beliefs are valid, but only whether they are central to religious doctrine and sincerely held."

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. New tech could give thieves key to your door — literally

      Cutting-edge technology potentially allows crooks to open any door with no problem — including yours. NBC national investi...

    2. Three Afghan soldiers reported missing from Cape Cod
    3. Atlanta Braves' new 'Simba cam' is an infinitely more adorable spin on the 'kiss cam'
    4. At least 2 killed, dozens injured in tour bus crash
    5. Martha Stewart's easy 'One Pot' comfort food for fall


That's where the school stepped over the line, the lawsuit alleges, saying officials repeatedly dismissed explanations of the Iaconos' faith by the family and their Raleigh minister.

Ariana Iacono has been suspended four times since fall classes started, missing 20 out of 29 days so far. On Monday, the school system denied an appeal of her most recent suspension, and told her she'd have to attend South Campus Community School, an alternative facility for students with disciplinary and other problems. She still wouldn't be allowed to wear the nose piercing in the other school.

___

Associated Press writer Tom Breen contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Three Afghan soldiers reported missing from Cape Cod

    video Military officials say three soldiers from the Afghanistan National Army visiting Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for a military exercise have gone missing. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski is live from the Pentagon.

    9/22/2014 11:56:55 AM +00:00 2014-09-22T11:56:55
  1. Courtesy of Christina Holmes

    Martha Stewart's easy 'One Pot' comfort food for fall

    9/22/2014 11:33:42 AM +00:00 2014-09-22T11:33:42