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Suspended 8th-Grader Can Return to School Wearing Earring : Principals Vote to Void Section in Dress Code

Times Staff Writer

An eighth-grade boy suspended earlier this week for wearing an earring will be returning Monday to Samuel E. Talbert Middle School after Fountain Valley School District principals decided at a special meeting Friday night to throw out part of a 1985 school dress code.

Thirteen-year-old Clint Reed Gregory can return to Talbert with a cubic zirconia post in his earlobe, after missing class two days this week, 13 principals concluded after more than an hour of discussion behind closed doors.

“I think it’s great,” Clint said. “I’m glad they finally came to their senses and let me back in school.”

In the future, boys wearing earrings will be handled on a case-by-case basis, said Cheryl Norton, communications director for the district.

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Earrings that are considered obscene, unsafe or a disruptive factor will not be allowed, Norton said. Each time there is a dispute, it will be reviewed by all the principals.

To Study Effect of Ruling

“They discussed the dress-code practice and decided they needed a lot longer than an hour to decide,” Norton said. “What they want to do is see the effects of their decision, to see if they allow one stud it will lead to six studs in an ear and three in the nose.”

Boys have not been allowed to wear earrings in district schools since March, 1985, Norton said. That rule, consistent in all 13 schools, became an issue earlier this week when Clint was suspended after showing up at school Thursday wearing an earring.

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Clint and his stepfather, Tim Toohey, both got their ears pierced Wednesday night. The Huntington Beach youth had been told by the person who pierced his ear to leave the earring in for six to eight weeks before removing it, so when his principal asked him to take it out, he refused. When he called his mother, she agreed he shouldn’t take it out.

He was suspended by Principal Judith Blankinship.

“There is nothing in the dress codes sent out that said earrings could not be worn by girls or boys,” said Ina Gregory, the boy’s mother. “We were very surprised. This is 1986. Hemlines changed, boys’ length of hair changed. Times have changed. And I really think (the dress code) should reflect the society that we live in.”

Review Ordered

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His parents asked the district Board of Trustees at its Thursday night meeting to reverse the decision. The board responded by directing the principals to review the code Friday. The board also placed the teen-ager under in-house suspension for four days, allowing him to attend school but forcing him to eat lunch and study his lessons in the principal’s office, Norton said.

His parents, however, decided it would be better for him to study at home than at school and picked up his lesson plans Friday.

“We didn’t think that was a quality education--six hours of confinement and ostracization would be emotionally and psychologically stressful,” Ina Gregory said.

This is not the first time a male student has come to district schools wearing an earring, school officials say. But it is the first time the policy has been questioned.

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At Talbert, three or four male students last year showed up with earrings, Blankinship said.

Parents’ Backing

“In the past, when kids have come in with earrings, we’ve simply asked them to please remove them, and kids comply with that. No one in school has ever had a problem,” Blankinship said. “Parents have really supported that code. Parents have backed the schools with that authority.”

School officials say they wish Clint’s parents had gone through the school district instead of to the news media to air their unhappiness with the dress code.

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“They could have come forward two weeks ago and asked to review the policy,” Norton said. “Instead, they chose to break the rules. He was given a chance to remove the earring or leave school, and his parents chose that he leave school.”

Added Blankinship: “Unfortunately they used the media when they could have come to us.”

Clint’s mother is pleased with the principals’ decision but says she still feels it has not gone far enough.

“Again there is discrimination,” she said. “Boys can’t wear dangling earrings, but girls can. But they did come a long way, and I sure appreciate that.”

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As for Clint, he just hopes life will be back to normal soon.

“I think I’ll be noticed for a couple of days, and then it will pass. It is just something I wanted to do for a while.”


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