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High School Student Suspended


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Wiccan student suspended

 

High school boots teenager wearing lipstick, makeup

 

By Irma Lemus , Staff Writer

 

In what is shaping as a battle between conformity and self-expression, Pacific High School suspended a ninth-grade boy Monday for wearing lipstick and eye makeup.

 

Officials are calling it a violation of school policy, which they seemed unable to find in writing.

 

James Herndon, 16, repeating his second year at the school, and his mother, Valerie Wallace, say James has been wearing black lipstick and red eye makeup since he enrolled at Pacific. He also wears his hair in a dyed-red Mohawk with the sides shaved, but that was not cited as part of the reason for the five-day suspension.

 

The youth said the makeup expresses religious beliefs he shares with his mother, a Wicca priestess in the neo-pagan religion based on northern European beliefs in the supernatural.

 

James also said the suspension is sex discrimination and violates his constitutional right to free expression.

 

"If I can't wear makeup, then the girls or the staff can't wear makeup either,'James said,

 

He said the makeup is not an expression of sexual orientation. The boy also dresses in black clothing in the fashion of self-styled Goths, familiar figures among students on high school campuses for several decades.

 

School officials were unable to cite any reference to makeup in school regulations or the California Education Code. They pointed to a section of the school's Student and Parent Handbook on dress code tying the suspension to a paragraph saying that if clothing "creates a safety hazard ... or when the dress constitutes a serious and unnecessary distraction to the learning process or tends to disrupt campus order,' the student is in violation.

 

Christine Sun, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said two Education Code sections protecting students' freedom of expression and guarding against gender discrimination appear to have been violated.

 

When James returns to school Monday, he will wear the makeup with his mother's blessing. "My son shouldn't change the way he is.

 

"After my divorce from his father, he became very depressed, and wearing the makeup makes him feel good,' she said, adding that the boy's psychologist and psychiatrist encourage him to express himself.

 

District spokeswoman Linda Hill declined to comment on the case, citing student confidentiality laws. She said the district follows the law. She said students shouldn't wear excessive makeup or clothing that could conceal identity or be distracting.

 

She said the prohibition applies to boys and girls.

 

Lynda Savage, a San Bernardino School Board member, said "without knowing all the details, my gut reaction is to support the principal. We don't suspend students just because. I suspect this student was a distraction to other students.

 

"We bend over backwards to provide our students better educational choices. I think this student needed to make a better choice.'

 

The ACLU's Sun had a different take: "High school is the time where many students are expressing themselves and really finding themselves and so to suspend the student is such a severe punishment it's wrong. It's wrong not only as a legal matter, but it's not good policy.'

 

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Guest Fritz

Actually, in school you can't wear whatever you want. The schools almost always have rules about clothes being distracting to the classroom and some toolbag like that kid would certainly be a distraction to 99.9% of the classroom so boo-frickin-hoo he can wear that stuff outside of school if he wants to, but at school he should tone it down a bit.

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