Siegelman also added, "Parents ought to be there talking to their kids and saying 'You know what kind of fool you look like with an earring? If God had wanted you to wear earrings, He'd have made you a girl.'"
Published 5:50 am Tuesday, January 8, 2002
Siegelman later softened his comment, saying that "for a young kid with an earring, that's a matter that the parent has to deal with and, of course, if the kid's in school, then it's something that the parents and the school board has to deal with."
According to Carter, Runyon is far from being "an idiot." He has maintained "good grades" for the school year, and is an active student.
"He's an A and B student now," Carter said. "And he loves it there. Coach (Forrest) Jones has bent over backwards to help him. All the teachers have."
Runyon is also described by his mother as "just a good kid."
"He's never been in any trouble," Carter said. "He plays football n one of the best players they have. He took it upon himself to get his team to raise over $1,000 for the Red Cross with a car wash last year for victims of September 11."
Payne agrees that Runyon is not a problem for the school.
"He's not a bad child," Payne said. "He's a good kid. We haven't had any major problems out of him."
Runyon said that ECMS is one of the best schools he has ever attended, and would love to go back.
"I love the teachers," Runyon said. "Coach Jones has really helped me a lot. And I'm making really good grades here."
Payne said that the ECMS faculty are upset by this turn of events and are looking for Runyon to return soon.
"We would love to see him back," Payne said. "Coach Jones and I are real torn up about this."
Payne also said that he felt that Kris' decision to have the ring was a mistake.
"He's a good kid that is making a bad choice," Payne said. "I really hope he changes his mind and comes back to school."
Kris feels differently about his decision to get a tongue ring.
"I think they're cool," Runyon said. "I don't think they're a distraction. And I'm not backing down."
"He's wanted this for three years," Carter said. "He's a child that's never asked for anything. All he wanted was his tongue pierced for his birthday. I told him to make sure the school handbooks don't say anything, but all they said was no earrings. We knew it was something we were going to do."
Carter also has her tongue pierced. She said she originally was not going to get her's pierced, but changed her mind when she decided to let her son pierce his.
"We're best friends," Carter said. "We do everything together. I was scared to get it done, but I did it because Chris wanted to. I think they're pretty cool looking."
Runyon said that his tongue ring was flexible, but he would not return until he was able to wear his earrings, which he was told at the beginning of the year he would not be able to wear, either.
"It's a part of our heritage," Runyon said. "I want a compromise with the school. I'm flexible on the tongue ring, but not the earrings."
Payne said he was shocked at Runyon's decision, but said he will be glad to welcome Runyon back if he abides by the school's decision.
"Kris has done well since he's been here," Payne said. "I'm a little shocked that he made the decision that was made. He was one of the last students I would have thought would do something like this. But, he's welcome back, if he complies."
Carter says that her son will not come back until her sons desire to wear his tongue ring and earrings are met.
"This is a fight we should have taken up in the beginning," Carter said. "But I didn't because he liked the school so much. But now, I'll home school him if it comes to that, but he's not going back until he can wear his earrings."
Carter said she was currently seeking legal advice from the ACLU, the National Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission, but was still waiting before she committed.
"I will home school him until it's settled, even if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court," Carter said. "I just don't know how I can afford it."
Carter believes that the school board has overstepped it's boundaries in her child's right to free expression.
"If they don't like something, they just ban it in the (school policies) book," Carter said. "Just because they don't like something and they don't agree with what the children want, then they just ban it. When is it going to stop?"