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Students Give Up Earrings at School So They Don’t Flunk

January 12, 1989

ALBANY, Mo. (AP) _ Opting for education over earrings, two brothers gave in to their principal Thursday and agreed to take off their earrings during school hours. But their parents say they’ll continue to fight the order.

Terry Sunderland, a junior at Albany R-3 High School, and his brother, Jeremy Snow, a seventh-grader, returned to classes for the first time in the week since the controversy started.

″I’d like to wear my earring, but I don’t want to flunk,″ said Jeremy. ″I take mine off as I enter the school and put it back on as I leave the door.″

Principal Jim Newman said the brothers would have flunked all their courses for the quarter if they had accumulated seven unexcused absences.

Newman banned earrings for boys on Jan. 4 after an outbreak of name-calling and pushing and shoving between boys who wore earrings and those who didn’t.

He gave eight boys who wore earrings the next day the option of taking them off or leaving. Two boys stayed in school; the other six, including Terry and Jerry, left but eventually returned to class.

Newman said the school’s dress code gives administrators the discretion to ban things that would be ″disruptive to the educational process.″

But the brothers’ parents, Lanny and Carla Sunderland, argue that their sons are victims, not perpetrators. They said they intend to explore legal action against the school.

″They didn’t start the trouble and now they are being punished unfairly,″ Mrs. Sunderland said. ″It’s sexual discrimination. If the boys can’t wear ’em, then the girls can’t.″

Sunderland, a truck driver, had his own ear pierced and now wears an earring himself in a show of solidarity with his sons.

″I was outraged,″ he said. ″I did it in the belief of standing up for my boys and what they believe in. That’s why I’m pushing it.″

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