SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A ninth-grade student has accused officials at a Southern California high school of discrimination for suspending him for wearing lipstick and eye makeup.
James Herndon, 16, said the five-day suspension imposed Monday by administrators at San Bernardino's Pacific High School (search) was unfair because females are allowed to wear cosmetics on campus.
"If I can't wear makeup," he said, "then the girls or the staff can't wear makeup."
Herndon says his black lipstick and red eye makeup express the Wiccan (search) religious beliefs he shares with his mother, a priestess in the neo-pagan faith. The suspension violates his constitutional right to free expression, he contends.
Linda Hill, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino City Unified School District (search), declined to comment on the case, citing student confidentiality laws.
She said, however, that students shouldn't wear excessive makeup or clothing that could conceal their identity or be distracting to other students, a prohibition applied to male and female students alike.
Herndon, who is repeating his second year at the school, has worn makeup since he enrolled, according to his mother, Valerie Wallace.
Despite the suspension, Herndon plans to wear the makeup when he returns to school next week.
"My son shouldn't change the way he is," Wallace said.