There was silence in the room Tuesday night, as the Harrison County School Board voted to adopt a new facial piercing policy. But once outside, anger erupted among a group of students.
One student said "I had mine for 3 years at school, 3 years, and they ain't say nothing until this year". Harrison Central High Student Jessica Shipman said "It's totally wrong. They're discriminating against people that want to express themselves differently than normal people".
Some students from Our Lady Academy in Bay St. Louis came to watch the meeting as part of their government class. Many of the private school students support those who are fighting for the right to wear facial jewelry.
Alicia Asper said "I know at our school, we're very restricted in what jewelry we can wear and everything. We think self expression is a very important thing".
Several parents also expressed their outrage. Sheila Bryant said "If I want my daughter to wear whatever she wants to school, that's my right. This is my child. I gave birth to her. If they want to start dictating what they can wear to school, how they can look, then they better start supporting my child from the day she was born to the day she's 18 years old. Keep the government out of my house".
School leaders say the policy is needed to cut down on distractions and protect students and teachers. Superintendent Henry Arledge said "I made the decision because I thought it was for the safety and welfare of all the children in the school district. That's it in a nutshell and I'll do it again".
School Board President Theodore Hardy said "I think the waging factor on our vote was primarily safety and definitely education. We just had to make a decision for the best interest of the school district. We're all here to educate students".
School board members say another reason they support the policy is because of a state law that makes it illegal for anyone to perform body piercing on a person under the age of 18.
The new school piercing policy goes into effect September 17th, but many students vowed to defy it.
Carly Gammell said "I don't believe on pushing on people's rights, and that's exactly what they're doing. I am definitely going to continue to wear my facial rings".
Sheila Bryant said "My child has no piercing now. Whenever her medical condition is better, she can have a piercing. When she gets kicked out of school about it, then it's going to be a bigger stink than what it is now".
Students who disobey the new policy will be disciplined and could be suspended or expelled.