Tyler Pafford, a 15-year-old student at Bullard High School, was removed from class Monday because of a small nose piercing.
Now, she and her mother, Rebecca Pafford, are questioning the Fresno Unified school district’s dress code policy – saying it’s inconsistently enforced and pushes students out of valuable class time.
“They were going to have her sit in the office all day until I came and got her,” Rebecca Pafford said. “They would rather have her sit there than go to school because of something the size of a pin dot in the crease of her nose. It is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.”
Tyler, who has a 4.0 GPA and is trilingual, says she has never had discipline issues and got the nose piercing alongside her mom a week ago before a teacher noticed on Monday.
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She says that several other students at Bullard High – and at least one teacher – also have nose piercings, but have not been reprimanded the way she has. Tyler says she was told she could not cover the piercing with a Band-Aid, and she and her mom had to buy a clear stud on Monday to put in so that the new piercing wouldn’t close.
“It’s so small that some of my friends didn’t even notice,” Tyler said. “I understand if something is obscene, but I do not think that a tiny little dot on your face should distract anyone from doing their work. You should be able to get a piercing. It’s your body – you should be able to do what you want with it.”
According to the district’s dress code, eyebrow, nose, lip, tongue and belly-button piercings are not acceptable.
“Fashions that draw undue attention to the wearer detract from the educational environment and are not acceptable,” the policy says. “This includes exotic clothing, extreme make-up, body piercing, military or camouflage attire, etc.”
Monday’s incident seems to go against the district’s commitment to restorative justice – which has recently been criticized by teachers. The idea aims to avoid kicking students out of class for misbehavior and instead gives them more valuable discipline that doesn’t hurt their academics. The district has pointed to the philosophy for its recent decline in suspensions and expulsions.
Fresno Unified spokeswoman Jessica Baird contended Bullard High is not a restorative justice-focused school, and said the district stands by the dress code.
“Fresno Unified supports Bullard’s dress code and it continues to apply until the end of the school year,” Baird said. “Prior to entering her 2nd period class, the student was advised that she could not have a nose ring as it violates the school’s dress code. A solution was offered to the student but the parent refused and took the student home.”
The student was also advised prior to getting the nose ring that piercings were not permitted on campus, according to Baird.
This is not the first time local school districts have faced criticism for dress-code policies.
Last year, Clovis Unified made national headlines for its strict, decades-old policy that restricted boys’ hair length and did not allow them to wear earrings, but allowed so for girls. In response to criticism, the district ultimately approved a gender-neutral dress code and dropped some of its policies.