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Teacher Dress Codes
posted by: Alix | August 06, 2012, 09:50 PM   

Dress codes for educators–or lack thereof–vary by district and even school environment. Whether you come to class in jeans or a tie, many teachers this fall might need to reevaluate their wardrobe choices in the new school year. Due to complaints about teachers dressing inappropriately in states across the country, many school districts are pushing for stricter dress codes.

For students, policies are clearly established and leave little room for confusion. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 56% of public schools enforce a dress code for students. However, appropriate apparel for teachers has yet to be defined in many schools and administrators argue that many teachers are abusing the privilege of the traditionally lax policies.

This spring, Litchfield Elementary School District in Arizona piloted a policy designed to prohibit "rubber-sole flip-flops, visible undergarments, any visible cleavage, bare midriffs, clothes that are deemed too tight, too loose or transparent, bare shoulders, short skirts and exercise pants." Administrators in the district also suggested guidelines for natural hair color, limiting piercings, and covering tattoos—all of which can come across as unprofessional.

The Wichita School District in Kansas has banned cutoff shorts, pajama pants and flip flops. Similarly, school officials in Milwaukee recently concluded that dress codes would consider athletic wear and T-shirts unacceptable for the classroom setting.

In most cases, schools are taking action because they believe some teachers are dressing inappropriately and creating distractions that could impact student learning. Arizona Superintendent Julianne Lein stressed that the school board policies were created to curb growing complaints from parents and that she will work with teachers to find a workable standard. "Staff members will first be counseled by their supervisor to brainstorm options in ways to meet the code," Superintendent Lein says. "Further non-compliance will be dealt with through the normal disciplinary channels."

While many of these guidelines seem obvious, teachers are quick to point out that different positions call for different wardrobe choices. Obviously, a physical education teacher working with third graders might need to dress differently than the high school Spanish teacher. Sarah, a veteran kindergarten teacher told one fashion blog, "My concerns are practical: things need to be washable and comfortable. I can have a little fun with jewelry or, yes, the infamous holiday sweater. But my highest priority is wash-and-wear — and comfortable shoes."

Still, while most teachers just need to use a little common sense, the need for such policies is discouraging to professional educators who wouldn't dream of wearing pajamas to school. While the AAE Code of Ethics for Educators doesn't specifically mention appropriate dress, it does mention maintaining the "social prudence" necessary to perform job duties. Further, "The professional educator complies with written local school policies and applicable laws and regulations." As a professional educator, it is critical to present yourself well, limit distractions for students, and follow all dress code policies.

What do you think about teacher dress codes? What is the "uniform" of choice at your school?

Comment below.

Comments (10)Add Comment
Lack of common sense
written by Michelle West Berlin nj, May 29, 2019

I am ok with dress codes as long as young ladies and teens are not required to tuck their shirts in. I have seen many teachers in front of impressionable students k-8th with dresses, skirts 10 or more inches above their knees, mini skirts with slits high enough to show u see garments, camisoles worn as a shirt minus bras, spaghetti strap shirts and dresses, flip flops when they are banned on students for fire safety. Most kids unfortunately are left with staff members being their examples. Be the positive example. I use the loose dressers as examples to my daughter on not what to wear.
Consider yourselves lucky....
written by Cynthia Gee, August 28, 2018

...our school district banned ALL denim, no matter the color, a few years ago. No denim of any kind is allowed, whether in pants, jeans,dresses, skirts, vests,jackets, or shirts.
Who labels attire appropriate?
written by Chantal Gordon, December 22, 2017

I've been in this profession for 30+ years. I have never had a complaint by administrators or parents. My AP used a ruler to measure my dress from hem to knee. She couldn't say where the ruler measured, 3 and 3/4...I didn't tell her. I asked where is this policy written? She replied in the Handbook. I said that is for students. The principal was sitting there, he rubbed his head and said just don't wear the dress again. "Or what?" "There will be a memo placed in your folder," he responded lightly. I asked both of them to put this irrational concern in writing. I haven't received that request. There is no 2 and 1/5 inch hem-to-knee policy for employees. Now, I have a complaint for both of them.
I agree with Laura Dallas.
written by Karen Hanzel, July 21, 2017

What is wrong with creating a more professional atmosphere and raising the bar on what we can legitimately expect from our students is at the forefront as well as fostering a a sense of pride and professional respect within the community?

However, to the administrators:

Make SURE that you yourselves are following this code. Too many times I have seen an administrator dress in a "sexy" style while admonishing their staff for not being up to snuff in their attire.
written by D Texas, April 20, 2017

What about hair styles? Should we as educators be told how to wear our hair?
written by Caroline Vance,, March 21, 2017

Im doing a paper about teacher dress code and i still have some questions that i need to know... like in the teacher handbook does it even say if they have a dress code
written by Haley, Fort Worth TX, January 24, 2017

I want to become a librarian and currently have 6 tattoos and my nose pierced. I have two tattoos on my ankle, my shoulder, my hip, back and ribs. For the most part they aren't too incredibly hard to hide but I do plan to get more and would like to keep my nose ring. I feel like we as people should have moved on from thinking tattoos or piercings are "trashy" and should see them as self expression. My tattoos and piercing don't hinder me from being able to be responsible or a good model and won't keep me from doing my job.
Who defines appropriate and not appropriate
written by Jamie, Alabama, December 02, 2016

So my understand of most articles on teacher dress code is not about appropriate and not appropriate, it is more about control over the teachers. You never read an article about college professors wearing inappropriate clothing. I for one had professors come to class with shorts and flip flops on everyday. It did not hinder my education. Just like the professor that came to class with a coat and tie on ever day. I believe that a teacher teaches better if they are comfortable. If we want to regulate what teachers wear we need to start at the top!
Paraprofessional Educator
written by Bohemian, Marina Del Rey, CA, March 17, 2016

How can we train our children to dress appropriately if we, as educators, support staff and parents, do not. It is a sad day that anyone should have to actually tell a fellow professional NOT to expose their undergarments, cleavage or wear pajamas and slippers to work but I have seen it. If that is the chosen attire those educators should restrict themselves to work at an online school where, from the waist down, they only need to dress for themselves.
Well defined teacher dress code.
written by Laura, Dallas TX, October 17, 2012

You would never find a teacher in PJs or flip-flops at our High School. Our principal has made her expectations for professional attire very clear and sets an amazing example in that department. Even on casual Fridays, teachers wear jeans but we are also sporting a school shirt and you won't find any ratty jeans in the bunch.

This creates a more professional atmosphere and I think raises the bar on what we can legitimately expect from our students (as far as their dress code) as well as fosters a sense of pride and professional respect within the community. I've seen how most of the teachers dress at my children's school and Let's just say I'm even more appreciative of my own work environment.

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