Schools get tough after girl's belly jewel nearly kills her in accident
Some Welsh schools are clamping down on body piercings amid news that a Cardiff art student nearly lost her life in a car crash because of a trendy navel stud.
Jessica Collins, 19, is recovering after a seatbelt forced the metal fashion item through her body almost to her spine, causing her serious internal injuries as she travelled near Munich at the end of last month.
She spoke of her ordeal on ITV's morning breakfast show GMTV this week, warning other teenagers of the potentially life-threatening dangers of wearing navel jewellery. But she told presenter Andrew Castle she would not advise friends to remove the studs, saying her freak accident was unlikely to happen again.
And headteachers whom TES Cymru spoke to this week said piercing policies are difficult where studs are non-visible.
Pauline Thomas, head of Abertillery Comprehensive, said that if a navel stud is spotted by a teacher during PE the pupil will be asked to remove it.
"We've had one or two instances and we've always had co-operation. We wouldn't go in for strip searching though," she said.
The only piercing jewellery allowed at Abertillery are ear studs. Mrs Thomas took a hard line when she became head six years ago.
"We had an issue with facial piercings some were disgusting and weeping," she said.
Since the restrictions behaviour has improved dramatically. It's a line you can't cross and gives a clear message."
Willows High in Cardiff decided to clamp down on visible piercings three weeks ago, though this does not extend to navel studs. "We felt perhaps we were becoming too liberal," said deputy head Steve Davies. "We now allow only a single ear stud."
The school had believed piercings were a fad which most pupils would soon tire of. "But we had a minority who still maintained a level of fairly flamboyant jewellery," said Mr Davies.
All parents were sent a letter with the new guidelines. "If students say they can't take them out then we'll say they need to be surgically removed, though as far as I know that hasn't happened yet."
Mr Davies said the school "has not got into anything further down the body" though felt what happened to Jessica Collins was an important lesson. "Children need to be aware of what can happen," he said.
At Morriston Comprehensive in Swansea, tightening the rules on visible piercings became part of a wider crackdown on school uniform in the summer.
"We now only allow stud earrings so that they cannot rip the lobe," said deputy head Peter Richards.
However, the school does not ask for navel piercings to be removed or for PE teachers to look out for them. "They can be in a vulnerable position in changing rooms and could be accused of all sorts," he said. "If one were seen, the pupil would be asked to cover it up."
Mark Edwards, newly appointed head of Rhyl High, says he's become aware that the school's policy needs to be clarified. Ear studs are allowed but facial piercings must be removed or covered.
"In PE a stud would be removed if it can't be secured any other way," he said.
He felt the potential dangers are best conveyed by case studies rather than Jessica's freak accident.
"I saw one girl get a hooped earring caught up in her bag and it tore off part of ear. I often use that example," he said.