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Board Postpones Decision Whether To Fire Tieless Teacher

December 2, 1988

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. (AP) _ A school board Thursday postponed a decision whether to fire a math teacher who refuses to change the way he dresses after a state official said such action would be ″taking a cannon to shoot down a mosquito.″

Board members said they will decide Dec. 19 whether to fire teacher Bill Webb.

The board went into executive session at 8:45 p.m. for about 50 minutes before postponing the decision to review testimony and examine evidence.

Webb had said the special Mason County school board meeting probably would end his 20-year association with Point Pleasant High, where his daughter is the student body president. ″I expect to be fired,″ he said.

About 80 people crammed into the meeting room before the board went into executive session.

The controversy began in August when the board said male instructors would have to wear ties, a change from contracts teachers signed last spring. Three teachers followed normal grievance procedures and lost.

Webb, a Gallipolis, Ohio, farmer who teaches high-level math at Point Pleasant High, ignored the order and was suspended three times.

The board changed its policy again Nov. 21 and allowed male employees to go tieless, but still prohibits jeans and denim. Webb is opposed to any change in his contract.

West Virginia Secretary of State Ken Hechler told the board Thursday night that a decision to fire Webb would have repercussions.

″It will certainly be reversed by the courts, and that will embarrass the school board. You’re taking a cannon to shoot down a mosquito,″ Hechler said.

School Superintendent Charles Chambers said ″non-verbal behavior is much more believable than verbal behavior.″ He said Webb’s fight was disruptive in the classroom and set a bad example for his 122 students.

″Teachers are adult role models for their students. The habits and behavior patterns of students are influenced by what they observe in their teachers,″ Chambers said.

Webb’s lawyer, Lawrence Kopleman, said the 15 charges that Chambers cited in his opening address were moot because the board has changed its policy.

Kopleman said Webb’s refusal was not insubordination but simply civil disobedience.

Webb originally was suspended for four days with pay in early October, then for 11 days without pay later in the month. On Halloween, Chambers suspended Webb for up to 30 days without pay.

Webb has an appeal of the 11-day suspension pending with a state hearing examiner, who must reach a decision by Dec. 15.

Before Thursday’s hearing, Chambers offered Webb a final chance to give up wearing jeans to class and to drop his state appeal, which includes an attempt to recover 41 days of pay. Webb rejected the offer.

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