Finot v. Pasadena City Bd. of Educ.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation250 Cal.App.2d 189,58 Cal.Rptr. 520
Decision Date18 April 1967
PartiesPaul S. FINOT, Petitioner and Appellant, v. PASADENA CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION and Pasadena City School District, Defendants and Respondents. Civ. 29176.

Mosk & Rudman, Norman G. Rudman, Hollywood, for appellant.

Harold W. Kennedy, County Counsel, George W. Wakefield, Chief Asst. County Counsel, Raymond W. Schneider, Deputy County Counsel, for respondents.

A. L. Wirin, Fred Okrand, Los Angeles, for amicus curiae.

COBEY, Associate Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment denying a writ of mandate to appellant under which respondents would have been compelled to rescind their assignment of him to home teaching and to restore him to his former classroom teaching assignment. The basis of the appeal is that such reassignment violated various of appellant's constitutional rights.

Shortly after the commencement of the school year of 1963--1964, appellant, a male teacher, holding permanent tenure, who had been teaching Government to high school seniors in the Pasadena City School system for seven years and who was a challenging and effective classroom teacher was transferred by respondent board to home teaching because he insisted on wearing, while teaching, a freshly-grown beard.

Appellant's conduct in this respect was in violation of the administrative policy of the principal of the John Muir High School where appellant, while clean-shaven, had been teaching for the last three years. This administrative policy had been initiated by the principal upon his becoming principal on July 1, 1960. Authority to originate this policy had been delegated to the principal by respondents' superintendent. The policy itself represented the principal's interpretation of a rating item in the teacher evaluation form of respondents' Teacher Handbook calling for the practice by teachers, among other things, of the common social amenities, as evidenced by acceptable dress and grooming, and requiring that they be appropriately attired on all occasions and that they set an example of cleanliness, neatness, and good taste.

This interpretation of this rating item was in turn based on a requirement in the Student Handbook at John Muir High School that beards, moustaches, and excessively long hair were not appropriate dress for male students.

In fact, the principal testified that the wearing of beards by male students had been a continuous problem at John Muir High School since he came there as a teacher in 1956. Both he and respondents' superintendent explained that, in their professional judgment as experienced and competent school administrators and teachers in various parts of the country, the appearance of teachers had a definite effect on student dress by way of example and in turn student dress had a definite correlation with student behavior,--that is, the well-dressed students generally behaved equally well. Their concern was that appellant's beard might attract undue student attention and thereby interfere with the process of educating them and, more specifically, would make the prohibition against male students wearing beards more difficult to enforce.

Respondents' superintendent and principal further explained that maintaining good student appearance at John Muir High School was much more of a problem than at the other city high school, Pasadena, because the students at John Muir were a much more metropolitan, cosmopolitan and heterogeneous lot with much greater range and extremes in economic, social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. In this last respect it was specifically brought out that a larger percentage of male Negro students than other male students, ordinarily want to grow beards and moustaches; that there were many more Negro students at John Muir than Pasadena, both absolutely and proportionately; and that the principal at John Muir therefore feared that if appellant were permitted to wear his beard in his classroom and on the campus, male students would be encouraged by his example to imitate him in violation of the aforementioned student rule to the contrary.

However, the foregoing reasons were not the only reasons for respondents' enforcement of the administrative policy under review. Appellant had promised both respondents' superintendent and the principal at John Muir, as a condition to his being transferred there from Pasadena High School 1 that he would not wear a beard while teaching at John Muir. He had worn a beard, like the one involved here, for most of the school year of 1959--1960 despite his then principal's known dislike of it. Furthermore, in the principal's opinion, he insisted on wearing his beard at John Muir at the start of the 1963--1964 school year in order to create an incident and to force the principal's hand.

Although the evidence is in direct conflict as to whether the freshly-grown beard that appellant wore at the start of the school year 1963--1964 was neat and well trimmed, this conflict in evidence is beside the point because respondents concede that their transfer of appellant from classroom teaching to home teaching was occasioned solely by his wearing a beard and not because of its appearance. Consequently, the basis for respondents' action, which is here under review, was that, in the principal's opinion, appellant's wearing of a beard was not acceptable dress and grooming, appropriate attire, or in the good taste required by the the aforementioned Teacher Handbook of teachers at the John Muir High School. The cleanliness and neatness of appellant's beard has never been an issue in this proceeding.

Appellant brands his transfer from classroom to home teaching by respondents, because he insisted on wearing a beard while teaching, as unconstitutional action. More specifically, he claims that his right to wear a beard, while teaching, is preserved to him by the privileges and immunities provisions of the United States Constitution, by the 1st, 5th, 9th and 14th Amendments thereto, and by the cognate provisions of our California Constitution; 2 that depriving him of this right without a valid reason or interest therefor and in the manner in which it was done, was a denial to him of his constitutional guarantees against deprivation of his life, liberty or property without due process of law and of the equal protection of the laws; and that he suffered a legally remediable detriment by reason of the aforesaid change in his teaching duties.

Amicus curiae, the American Civil liberties Union, contends that this change in appellant's teaching duties, because of his insistence on wearing a beard as aforesaid, was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable and in violation of his aforementioned federal and state constitutional rights under the due process of law clauses. It also suggested that his federal and state constitutional rights to the security of his person were somehow involved.

The trial court did not accept these contentions of appellant and of amicus curiae. It specifically found as follows in its findings of fact:

'That the administrative policy at John Muir High School prohibiting the wearing of beards by teachers is based upon the professional judgment of John A. Venable, Principal at John Muir High School that the wearing of beards by teachers would encourage students to wear beards, would make it difficult to enforce standards of student dress and grooming, and would be a disruptive factor in the educational process. It was, and is the professional judgment of said John A. Venable, as principal at John Muir High School, that the wearing of a beard by a teacher would draw undue attention to said bearded teacher, would cause undue and extraordinary comment thereon, and would be disruptive of the educational program of the school. John A. Venable is qualified by education and experience as a teacher and school administrator and as principal of John Muir High School he is responsible for the supervision and administration of his school. Said John A. Venable is further qualified by experience and education to formulate the administrative policy that teachers at John Muir High School should not be permitted to wear beards. John A. Venable, as principal at John Muir High School has, in fact, had experience with the disciplinary and scholastic problems caused by the wearing of beards by students, and said John A. Venable has actually encountered a student wearing a beard at said school in emulation of petitioner PAUL S. FINOT.' (Find. VIII.)

'It is, and was at all times herein involved, the professional judgment of John A. Venable, Principal of John Muir High School, and Robert A. Jenkins, Superintendent of respondent District, that the wearing of a beard by petitioner at John Muir High School is not the practice of a common social amenity and is not acceptable grooming for classroom teachers.' (Find. XI.)

Furthermore, in its conclusions of law, it specifically held that respondents' action in changing appellant's teaching assignment, as aforesaid, 'was not arbitrary, discriminatory, unreasonable, capricious, nor punitive, and said action does not deny (appellant) liberty or property without due process of law, nor does it deny said (appellant) equal protection of the law' and that such action of respondents 'constitutes the lawful exercise of discretion vested in respondents and that the exercise of said discretion was reasonable' and that appellant 'has suffered no detriment, injury or damage from the acts of respondents herein.'

The first question presented by this appeal is whether appellant possesses any constitutional right to wear a beard while engaged in classroom teaching at John Muir High School. If he does not, respondents' change in his teaching duties, because he insisted on wearing a beard while so teaching, was plainly privileged. Generally speaking, respondents possessed the power to assign appellant to any teaching duty for...

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