Cumberland Times-News

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June 17, 2014

W.Va. teachers’ union wants Hampshire dress code nixed

Policy adopted May 19; educators didn’t have opportunity to comment

— ROMNEY, W.Va. — The American Federation of Teachers — West Virginia has asked for a teacher dress code adopted May 19 by the Hampshire County Board of Education to be rescinded.

The federation’s attorney sent a June 9 letter to Marianna Leone, superintendent of Hampshire County Schools, requesting the dress code to be withdrawn.

Leone had nothing to say in a Monday interview other than the board has talked about the dress code all year and the board is the policymaker.

Christine Campbell is the president of the American Federation of Teachers — West Virginia. Carbone and Blaydes, a Charleston law firm, wrote the letter to Leone on behalf of the AFT-WV.

The letter states that the board of education has denied the employees the ability to comment on pending policy amendments and has violated the provisions of the Open Governmental Proceedings Act.

It further states that because of the absence of notice and opportunity to comment, professional and service personnel were unable to comment in any manner on the policies at issue.

“We are not in the process of addressing the dress code. We are asking why they passed this without asking for input from all the stakeholders,” Campbell said.

Campbell said that the dress code, in her opinion, really isn’t necessary. “There is already a provision to address anyone who is dressing unprofessionally. The principals of the school have the right to address an individual(s) if they are not dressing appropriately.”

The May 19 dress code adopted for teachers lists the following as unacceptable attire: torn clothing, shorts, blue jeans, hat and head wraps, leggings, immodest dress (too short, too tight, too low cut), T-shirt other than school affiliated, spandex, tank tops, see-through clothing, spaghetti straps or strapless and halters, clothing that exposes midriff, exercise sweatsuits-windsuits, beach-style flip-flops, yoga pants and drop crotch pants. Shorts or sweatsuits are permitted for physical education or field trips; blue jeans only for job-related and/or outside projects for shop, AG, art or science labs.

Rob Wolford is an eighth-grade teacher at Romney Middle School.

“It is disheartening to see the Hampshire County Board of Education spend their time and effort on the issue of a dress code when issues such as a levy, deteriorating facilities, poor academic performance, inclusion of noncounty students into our performance ratings, and so forth, face us daily,” Wolford said.

“It is as though the board is using this issue to defray attention to real problems that would require more attention and effort to address. More troubling is their use of an attorney that advocates for dress codes and profits by representing the boards in litigation regarding dress codes.”

Wolford said the state Supreme Court of Appeals has already addressed the issue in its decision Webb v. Mason County.

“If an individual teacher is dressing in a manner that is affecting the education of his or her students, then the matter should be addressed with that teacher, mass punishments are unprofessional,” Wolford said.

The BOE county employee handbook states that all county employees should dress in an appropriate manner that allows them to complete their work and not disrupt the work site.

The ACT-WV letter says that should the board of education desire to re-address the dress code, that it does so in a manner in which the public has a meaningful comment period.

“It is the AFT-WV’s desire that this meeting be resolved expeditiously … and that the AFT-WV is prepared to take all appropriate legal action necessary to protect the rights and interest of the public and its membership,” the letter says.

Leone said the letter would be discussed at Monday night’s board meeting.

Contact Marla Pisciotta at marlapisciotta@frontier.com.

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