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Teacher Loses Appeal Over Right to Grow Beard

September 18, 1987 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ Pinkerton Academy had every right to fire a teacher who grew a beard contrary to school policy banning faculty beards, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.

″While it may be true that a carefully trimmed and maintained beard may contribute to a professional, even distinguished, appearance, it also cannot be denied that a wild overgrown thatch of facial hair might detract from the professionalism of a person’s demeanor,″ Judge Edward Northrup wrote in Thursday’s order.

The decision upholds Pinkerton’s 1984 dismissal of Kenneth Johnson who said he grew the beard as a lesson in democracy for his social studies students. School officials cited his defiance of the academy’s no-beard rule for teachers, since scrapped.

Johnson had argued that his constitutional rights were violated and the rule was arbitrary.

Pinkerton contended the rule was promulgated in good faith to ensure teachers maintained a professional appearance. Rather than adopt a subjective standard requiring neatness, the school said it chose to ban beards altogether.

″In light of the myriad of concerns daily claiming the time and attention of school administrators, the court finds Pinkerton’s decision to opt for an easily administered ‘no beards’ rule, rather than a potentially burdensome neatness standard, to be a rational apportionment of the school’s limited administrative resources,″ Northrup ruled.

He also rejected Johnson’s argument that the rule was arbitrary since students were allowed to grow beards. ″A school may seek to teach students by example rather than by enforcement,″ Northrup wrote.

In ruling the policy rational, the court did not consider Pinkerton’s contention that Johnson waived his rights when he signed a contract containing the restriction.

Pinkerton, in Derry, serves as the public high school in the area.

After his dismissal, Johnson sold cars for a while before taking another teaching job in Hudson.

Johnson’s lawyer, Michael Winograd, said he would appeal.