West Virginia teachers union battles proposed ban on flip-flops, jeans and facial piercings

Teachers in West Virginia's largest school district don't want to be told they can't show up for work in jeans and flip-flops.

In fact, they don't want to be told how to dress, period.

The Kanawha County school district's board of ed last week introduced a proposed dress code, which also bars facial piercings, and immediately got a dressing down from the teachers union. It's not that the local teachers want to wear their weekend attire, they insist, it's that codifying it so strictly is insulting.

“The only statement that needs to be made is that employees need to dress and behave in a professional manner,” DuPont Middle School math teacher Fred Albert, the American Federation of Teachers' local president, told the Charleston Daily Mail. “We don’t need a prescriptive and strict policy.”


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The teachers' bosses who were contacted by FoxNews.com seemed to agree that instructors in the 28,000-student, 66-school district dress professionally. But one principal said he can't understand why anyone would object to putting a standard down in writing.

“That’s not something I have a big issue here at DuPont, most of my teachers already dress professionally,” DuPont Middle School Principal Tommy Canterbury, who oversees roughly two dozen teachers and 380 students, told FoxNews.com. “It’s not a big issue for me. At larger schools, where you’re getting new people coming in and out, it might be a necessity, but if you want to be called a professional, you have to dress professionally.”

Canterbury said the board has a right to impose the three-page dress code, which also bans shorts, tank-tops and "immodest dress" and dictates that tattoos are to be covered whenever possible.

“If it’s something that the board thinks is necessary, then by all means do it,” Canterbury told FoxNews.com. “Here, I’m fortunate I don’t have to deal with it.”

The code also mandates that hair and nails be clean and neatly groomed. And while blue jeans are explicitly prohibited, district employees can wear “dress jeans” with no visible tears or fraying.

Several messages seeking comment from school board members, including Superintendent Ron Duerring, were not returned. The American Federation of Teachers, the state’s largest teachers union, reportedly mobilized a group of teachers to oppose the policy, including Albert, who could not be reached for comment.

The board tried in 2001 to pass a dress code, but the measure failed amid teacher opposition.

George Aulenbacher, principal of George Washington High School  in Charleston, declined to comment on the policy when reached by FoxNews.com. But Clinton Giles, principal of nearby Capital High School, said he couldn’t think of any issue pertaining to a staffer’s appearance in years.

“I believe our faculty and staff understand that being professional includes how they dress,” Giles told FoxNews.com. “We dress as professional educators. We don’t have a problem here and I don’t see that the policy the county is trying to establish would be a problem.”

Giles, a 12-year veteran at the school, said he wears a shirt and tie every day of the year except during the annual cookout held on the last day of classes.