The lawyer for a third-grader who spends his school days in isolation for refusing to cut his skimpy ponytail said Tuesday he hopes an appeals court will strike down the dress code as early as January.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the Bastrop County school board asked a state judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the mother of Zachariah Toungate, 8.School board lawyers sought to thwart the Toungates' lawsuit on the grounds that the child's mother, September Toungate, has no standing to file suit and that the complaint was improperly drawn.

Bastrop County State District Judge Harold Townslee said Tuesday he will not issue a ruling until Jan. 10.

Charles Beall, the lawyer for the Toungates, said Townslee's ruling will not affect his appeal to the 3rd State Court of Appeals in Austin.

Townslee upheld the school district's dress code on Nov. 19, ruling the courts cannot interfere with local decisions.

The child's plight began in late September when he was sent home for having a 7-inch ponytail, which was allowed under last year's dress code.

Since Oct. 5 Zach has been attending classes at Mina Elementary School in a 12-by-15-foot windowless room - called "an alternative education setting" by school officials.

Zach eats by himself and, for $35 a day, the school calls in substitute teachers for him. He has no physical education, music or choir classes.

The boy's mother said she has never considered backing down from her challenge of the dress code.