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Nose ring policy challenged

Maria Alvestad-Ereth, 13, replaced the hoop-shaped nose-ring she wore in the seventh grade with a tiny stud trying to compromise with the South Kitsap School District’s jewelry policy. - Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Photo
Maria Alvestad-Ereth, 13, replaced the hoop-shaped nose-ring she wore in the seventh grade with a tiny stud trying to compromise with the South Kitsap School District’s jewelry policy.
— image credit: Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Photo

Maria Alvestad-Ereth had her nose pierced with a friend in an effort to find something to set her apart from the rest of the crowd.

“As soon as we got to school, that wasn’t the case, because everyone else had them, too,” said Alvestad-Ereth, 13. “It was just something else that not everyone had, something else that set us apart.”

Her piercing represented a growing commonality of body art seen on teens in the area, but ultimately she was outside of the crowd when she faced an inconsistency in school policy enforcement at Cedar Heights Junior High.

Alvestad-Ereth wears a small, jeweled nose stud — small enough that it’s not noticeable at first glance. She wears it, along with clothes appropriate for her physical education class, and sits on the sidelines, not participating and receiving a failing grade.

She sits, while she and her parents work with the school and the district on its jewelry policy, asking why exceptions can be made for ear studs but not nose rings, and how their daughter completed the seventh grade PE requirements with a nose ring but can’t in the eighth grade.

Carey Alvestad and Marty Ereth went to the school district to discuss what they saw as a policy inconsistently enforced and needing adjustments to address changing cultural trends.

Seeking a compromise, they replaced the hoop-shaped nose-ring Alvestad wore with a small stud, with a flat C-shaped clasp that lays flat against the inside of her nostril.

They’re willing, if allowed, to conduct her physical education from home, or even sign a contract waving the district’s liability in the event of an injury.

But mainly, they’d like the school’s policy exempting ear studs to be extended to nose piercing as well. They wait, with their daughter on the sidelines, in what they called “respectful defiance” of the district’s policy.

The policy they cited reads, “Exceptions to the ‘no-jewelry policy’ include religious metals that are secured to the torso with tape and small studs worn in the ears.”

Alvestad-Ereth looks around her school and toward South Kitsap High School and sees teenagers with pierced noses and lips, and assumes that pierced belly-buttons are also present. Her parents question whether or not the district can fully enforce this. And if so, should it?

“It’s not just Maria,” said Alvestad. “But what about those other kids who aren’t participating? Since it’s becoming more of a norm, then more of these kids are going to have these piercings. I think it’s time to recognize that.”

And a few of them are failing, Alvestad-Ereth said. Talking to some of her classmates, she’s found some who took out their nose-rings, and some who are sitting on the sidelines, receiving a failing grade.

Alvestad-Ereth doesn’t fit the stereotypical teenage girl mold. She prefers reading, writing and roller skating, and admits that PE is not her favorite class.

“A lot of these kids, they aren’t the drill team and the cheerleaders,” Ereth said. “They’re a little bit different type of people. They’re introverts and bookworms. They don’t need to be ostracized any more than they already are.”

Her parents cite the school district’s motto, which promises to “focus on student learning by embracing diversity.”

But to the district, it’s not just about embracing a different form of self-expression, but about legality and liability.

Assistant Superintendent Dave LaRose recognized the distinction, calling the parents’ question “a very articulate appeal,” but said the district ultimately has to make decisions based on risk-management.

“I know that sometimes there’s a question about what might be deemed or perceived as discriminatory,” LaRose said. “That has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

After some close examination of the district policy, LaRose said the rules should be clearly and consistently enforced, which means no jewelry, except for medical or religious jewelry.

The exception that noted ear studs was meant to refer to religious metals.

“If there was an inconsistency, that was corrected,” LaRose said. “That should be corrected.”

And the district has offered one solution — a plastic nose stud meant to maintain the hole from the piercing without putting metal jewelry in harms way.

But Alvestad-Ereth’s parents still worry about the implications of this policy district-wide. Are kids with hoop earrings allowed to play on the playground?

And is it true that every boy and girl with earrings are taking them out for PE?

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