The Kanawha County Board of Education voted Thursday to erase multiple countywide bans from the student dress code, paving the way for other-than-ear piercings, baggy clothes, and shorts and skirts shorter than mid-thigh.
The school board also voted to fire Alison Douglas, despite about 40 people showing up to support her. Several broke into tears as they asked the board, before its vote, not to terminate her and as they listened to their fellow supporters’ pleas.
Douglas, several board members and county schools Superintendent Ron Duerring declined to specify what Douglas allegedly did. Douglas personally chose to speak to the board behind closed doors.
According to comments that her supporters — including family members — made to the board, Douglas was a Horace Mann Middle School counselor who allegedly failed to timely report to Child Protective Services something related to a student.
The board also voted to allow Keith Vititoe, the county school system’s security executive director, to carry a gun.
“It’s just in case,” Vititoe said. “It’s not because of perceived imminent danger, but it’s a precaution.”
All these votes were unanimous.
The changes to the countywide dress policy approved Thursday almost exactly mirror the proposed changes the board published in September for public comment.
The countywide bans are now lifted on pants worn below the waist; tube and halter tops; chain and spiked jewelry and other items.
Gone is the requirement that form-fitting pants “may only be worn with another layer of clothing which meets the dress code.”
Countywide dress code relaxation aside, what any particular school allows will be more up to that school’s principal.
These lines remain in the policy: “Clarification regarding apparel should be obtained prior to wearing it to school; this can be obtained from the School Administration,” and “School Administration shall have the right to consider any current fashion to determine its acceptability for school wear.”
Regarding Douglas, supporter Andi Geary told the board that “we should be here praising her for her exemplary service, not defending her.”
As one of Douglas’ daughters cried, Ruth Ranson told the board that “the students at Horace Mann need her to return to her position, her well-earned position” and that “these students have a professional who they have trusted and formed a relationship and a bond with.”
After hearing from Douglas’ supporters, the board went into closed session to discuss personnel matters and possible litigation. After spending about an hour behind closed doors, most of it with Douglas in the room, the board emerged and voted immediately to fire her.