Ohio school officials: Tongue-pierced teen’s suit should be tossed

Thursday, February 19, 1998

DAYTON, Ohio (AP)—A student who claims his tongue jewelry is constitutionally protected by free-speech provisions doesn’t qualify because he kept his mouth closed, a southwest Ohio school district contends.

Michael Dyer Jr. should have attended school with his mouth open if he wants to claim his tongue pierce was protected, New Carlisle school officials argued in court Wednesday.

In asking that Dyer’s federal lawsuit be dismissed, attorneys for Tecumseh Local Schools said they did not dispute the concept of free expression.

But they noted Dyer’s claim that he never displayed the tongue pierce while in school, and argued that the pierce “does not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment since it was never displayed.”

Columbus attorney Sue W. Yount and Dayton attorney Nicholas E. Subashi asked U.S. Magistrate Michael R. Merz to dismiss the lawsuit filed Jan. 27 against the school board.

Dyer, 15, of New Carlisle, has been suspended five times for more than 25 days since Sept. 18 for refusing to remove the jewelry.

The lawsuit claims Dyer sports “body pierces, tattoos, and unique hair styles” to express his opposition to drug use and promiscuous sexual activity.

On Jan. 29, Merz ordered the school officials not to suspend Dyer again for wearing a tongue stud, pending a March 9 hearing.

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