As reported by the Boston Globe, June 19, 2004.

Schools Tell Kids to Wear Flip Flops to the Beach, Not Class

By Noreen Gillespie

NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- Toes are really, really in.

In the halls of New Canaan High School, the onset of warm weather means one thing. The squealing squeak of sneakers has been replaced by the shuffling and thwacking of flip flops smacking against the tiled floors.

This is flip flop freedom.

But for school administrators who typically spend the spring months battling against skinny-strapped tank tops, too-short shorts, tiny skirts and other skin-baring apparel, the flip flops aren't so cool. But it isn't an issue just of exposed skin. They're dangerous -- and schools across the country are deciding to outlaw them.

The footwear sported by the teens is as varied as the interests of students who wear them. Some girls wear spiffy black ones with embroidered flamingoes on the straps. Guys wear flops stamped with college logos. There are hearty athletic styles with bulky soles that retail for around $30; skinny rubber ones sell for about $2.

But the appeal of them all is pretty simple.

"They're effortless," said C.P. Allen, a flip-flop wearing student at New Canaan High School. "In the morning when you're rushing to get to school on time, you don't have to put your socks on."

Once confined to sandy beaches, pool decks and shower stalls, the boring rubber flip flop has undergone a design revolution. Now one of the must-have staples of students' wardrobes, everybody is flopping around -- except where they can't.

In Knox County schools in Tennessee, a ban has been in place for about four years. Sandals are allowed, but flip-flops just aren't stable shoes, officials said.

The hallways at Farragut High School in Tennessee are crowded because the school is holding about 600 more students than it was originally designed for, said Ed Hedgepeth, the school's former principal and now a district official. That makes it easy for a student going down the stairs to stomp on a flip flop, causing the wearer to trip.

"That's a safety issue," he said.

The flip flop bans differ from state to state, and district to district. Some administrators have chosen to forbid flops for all students, while other districts let schools set individual policies. Some schools just ban them in the winter.

There is no formal flip flop policy in place in New Canaan. But when an enterprising high school business class started a booming flip-flop business and wanted to go across the street to the middle school to boost sales, they were told the school didn't want to encourage students to wear flip flops.

"They believed if they let us sell them, they'd be endorsing flip flops," said Steven Rashin, a 16-year-old junior who is president of the mock company. (Rashin, by the way, prefers Nike flip flops. He confessed that the Toegoz brand his company sells flung off his feet too easily -- though that's not the case for everyone. The mock company has sold more than 300 pairs of the flip flops.)

Greg Macedo, principal of New Canaan's Saxe Middle School, said there are usually a few flip flop related injuries like a twisted ankle or stubbed toe reported to the school nurse each year. Although the school hasn't officially banned them, students are strongly encouraged to wear other shoes, he said.

There is no research that shows long-term wear of flip flops in children causes problems, said Samuel Berkowitz, an assistant professor in the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of Connecticut. But he recommends sporty-style sandals with a supportive sole as an alternative, he said.

For the most part, the thin, "dollar-forty-nine item in the drug store" type of flip flop don't provide enough support, he said.

"I think it's good common sense if you're going to be walking minimally, they're fine," he said. "If you watch kids, they wear them as their primary shoe gear during the summer months. They're horrible and they get more horrible the more you walk."

In Austin, Texas, where temperatures are accommodating for flip flop lovers all year round, school officials talked to parents, teachers and students before putting in place a new dress code this year. Students didn't like a lot of it, but they particularly did not like the flip flop ban.

To school officials, flip flops send a carefree message that conflicts with students' purpose in the classroom. While it also was a safety decision, the dress code changes were meant to instill a business-casual style of dress in school to influence decorum, said John Moore, executive director of educational support services.

"Flip flops are designed for the beach. They're not really designed for school wear," said Moore.