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Fashion Dictates


In an effort to improve student decorum and reduce distractions, school districts in the Northeast and elsewhere are increasingly turning to uniform or dress code policies. While the established research has concluded that such polices make little discernable difference in student performance or behavior, a new, small-scale study of schools in Ohio has found that schools requiring uniforms have higher graduation rates and fewer disciplinary problems. The author of that study, Virginia B. Draa of Youngstown State University, says uniforms help blur class lines between students and reduce peer-pressure issues. They may even heighten teachers’ expectations of students, she speculates. Still, some families see uniform policies as repressive, expensive, and no fun. “You live in America, where you’re supposed to have freedom of choice,” complains a uniform-resistant father of five in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Meanwhile, many young teachers are finding that they, too, have less than absolute freedom in what they can wear to school. In response to gradually blurring standards of professional dress, school districts in Northern Texas, to take one example, have implemented new guidelines on teacher attire. Such policies range from general discussions at new-teacher orientations to, in the Mesquite district, a 27-slide PowerPoint presentation detailing appropriate dress. Citing items such as body piercings, flip-flops, and revealing t-shirts, school leaders in the region say it was getting difficult to distinguish some teachers from students. And while some parents and teachers contend that educators can teach just as effectively in flip-flops and jeans, others suggest there are also important issues of perception involved. “While Americans are notoriously informal in their dress, … I think teachers should be perceived as professionals and dress professionally,” said Bob Davis, a teacher at Berkner High in Richardson, Texas.


My wife's school has a pretty simple dress code, "No butts, boobs or midriffs." But weeks after the school has started and after at least weekly general reminders there are almost daily violations. There was also one female teacher that wore a short skirt and no underwear. And it was noticed!

For the most part, teachers dress in smart casual clothing, and don't push the boundaries. Of course, there are exceptions, like Adam mentioned (ed: what was that teacher thinking?!) but I'd hate to see this become an overblown issue. There are many more important issues to focus on in the American education system, and I don't think that teacher dress is part of that.

There are some fresh teachers that need to be reminded they are the grown-ups, we had one man with the best selection of rude tee-shirts from Target and one attractive young woman in a see-through long dress, with a thong. Yes, some schools pay so poorly all a teacher can afford are cheap Chinese flipflops and slave-labor jeans, our classrooms are so hot with no A/C that dressing in a suit would be very difficult.

I am a teacher and I dress casually, but no jeans or see through clothing. I feel I should look professional, but I work with children and should be allowed to be comfortable. How would I be able to get down and work with the kids, overhead pens, white board markers, crayons....and wear an expensive outfit? Even if I was paid enough to buy the more expensive clothing (which I certainly am NOT) I would not wear suits to teach in. A professional landscaper would not be expected to wear crisp white shirts to work every day although I'm sure he or she sould consider themselves "professional"...I am as professional in a denim skirt as I would be in silk. It's more about my demeanor than my clothing.

Years ago as a parent I presented research to the junior high teachers against a uniform policy. On that same day, I caught my daughter changing clothes in the bathroom into something inappropriate. I do think for the students, it's a parental control issue...by the way, she changed back and paid the price! As a new teacher, I agree with comfort, and we don't want to spend high dollars on clothing because it ultimately get's spit on, sneezed on and written on...but there is a professional line to be drawn and teachers should not look like students, especially in the high school.

I am a teacher and I believe that teachers should adhere to a professional dress code, but on the other hand. If we are to be dressed and portrayed as professionals, we should also be paid as a professional. In business's where men and women are dressed in suits and ties daily, they are paid on a scale which deems as much. We are striving for highly qualified then we should have the pay of a highly qualified professionals. Teachers are the foundation of all professions.

I am not the fashion police. I do not want to have to worry whether a student's shorts or skirts are 1/2 inch too short. I do not normally notice what kids are wearing unless it is very revealing or has huge letters on it. I like Adam's post. Keep it simple. The more complicated you get on any policy, the harder it is to enforce. We have too much on our plate to have to worry about dress code, which is the least of my worries as a teacher.

As a teacher I have always looked at dress codes as just another thing we can bug the students about. The more petty rules we set the more the students will try to break. My view on public school dress code is if it is legal on the street it is legal in the classroom. I have never understood where we think we have the right to inforce extreme dress codes in the PUBLIC school. If parents want dress codes then let them choose a private school where their beliefs are in common. Like others I believe we need to be reminded we do live in the United States where we are suppose to have freedoms.

I am a teacher, and feel that as a teacher we should follow a professional/working dressing code. If a teacher dresses professionally, than the students seems to see that as a positive toward status of authority. However, if the students have to follow a strick dresscode than the teachers should not break the student dresscode just because they can.

As a chief administrator, I ask that my teachers dress modestly, professionally and appropriately for working with young children. When clothing draws attention away from our focus on children, we are off track. Teachers should dress to be comfortable, safe and respectable. My professionals "get it" without me needing to dictate to them. They're smart and take pride in what they do. A high quality faculty team quickly influences newcomers.

We have an updated dress code this year that's being enforced rather strictly. Teacher's personal views vary, but it's a school district policy so we have no choice. The student's have adjusted and we have few problems day to day. Most problems have beeen with the oversized clothing and jackets (not allowed). Personal freedom is great, but not at the expense of safety or a proper atmosphere for teaching and learning. In today's world, safety is first priority, then teaching and learning can happen.

I am both a parent and a teacher at my children's school (private) as well as a former public school teacher.

I will have to say that uniforms for students are MUCH cheaper than "regular clothes." Depending on how often you want to do laundry, you can get by on just 3 shirts and 3 pants/skirts/shorts/whatever. Ten months out of the year, my kids wear these items and only one pair of shoes. When I taught in public school, the dress code had to be so specific, it would have been easier to go to a uniform. Plus, as mentioned in the article, it totally does away with clothing as a status symbol.

As for teachers, I think that the dress should be professional and in accordance with the age taught. Obviously, kindergarten teachers will be down on the floor with their kids. And, I have had a number of nice shoes ruined in the past on the playground. That being said, how you dress when you go to work reflects your opinion of yourself and your aspirations. At the public school where I taught, jeans were common (this was a middle school). I found the faculty to be unprofessional in their attitude. Like it or not, our clothing does make an impressions, and I believe that we should set an example for our students.

We frequently tell our students, "To get respect you must give respect". Likewise to be respected as a professional educator, we must walk, talk, and dress the part. I just retired after 35 years in the public school system. I remember the days when you COULD distinguish who was the teacher. The majority (99%) of my teaching career was spent in classrooms or offices that were NOT airconditioned! There is professional clothing that will accomodate all situations. I can understand why some parents wonder how much effort the teachers are putting forth in teaching their children. If some teachers exert the same effort on their craft that they put forth in their dress our children are in trouble! Teachers should also remember they are role models for many of their students (HMMMM).

Teachers have to be somewhat casual to do their jobs...especially in the elementary school classroom, the art room, and the gym. But in the high schools where I have worked, some female co-workers DO look just like the students. When thongs are showing above the pant line and shirts are too low, no matter how "nicely" dressed one is, it is time to instill professionalism in these usually new/young teachers. And I don't necessarily blame them...it's what the 20-somethings wear - but as a teacher, they should KNOW better then to come to school like this!

I'm a teacher in bush Alaska and it is very rare that you see any of my coworkers or I in something other than jeans or khakis. Values are definately different here and there is not a high priority on how you look (most kids wear the same clothes for at least 2 days, some even the whole week). It would be ridiculous for any of us to "dress professionally" for the main reason that it would distract the students because it is not what they are used to seeing. If we can be professional way out here without "dressing professional," I'm sure it would work anywhere else.

I haven't seen many exposed midriffs or thongs here, but lots of our high school staff, including myself, wear jeans to school most days -- usually paired with a staff polo shirt or a turtleneck or something. Completely professional, IMO. I take exception to the commonly accepted interpretation of "professional" as corportate/ office -- as if that were the most worthy work world, and therefore the one with the "best" look. Software developers, writers, builders, standup comics ... lots of productive, well-paid folks work in jobs which, sensibly, don't require an artificially formal wardrobe. My friend the grantwriter, who makes probably three times as much as I do, goes for a serious-business look by putting a bathrobe over her pajamas before she sits down at her computer. I question the message we send to our students when we tell them that if you're don't look corporate, you don't look like a pro.

I am a teacher and I understand the need for dressing appropriately. I would never wear jeans or see-through clothing to work! But I also cannot afford suits on my pay! What is ok for the students is not ok for the teachers. I wear dresses or nice skirts/blouses to work and have never had a negative comment given. On the messier days of teaching 1st grade, I wore dress slacks with tops I can find at Wal-Mart or Target. Only one principal has ever said anything negative about my attire--- and she wore sweats to school!

I am a teacher in an urban high school where students have a dress code and teachers, although they don't have a dress code, are highly encouraged to follow one. Our district has even threatened to implement one in the future. There have been issues with new teachers wearing tank tops, flip flops, mini-skirts, and very low cut tops. I personally would not wear a top to school that is so low that have my breasts are exposed but some young teachers do. I take offense to that because I care what people think of my appearance and me as an educator and I would not want to dress like I'm going to the club. I expect my coworkers to do the same, but some do not. Some young teachers also wear mini-skirts which I consider unprofessional. These types of behaviors are completely avoidable. I think a more professional dress makes the teacher look classy, respectable, and not cheap and should be strongly encouraged. If it has to be an policy, so be it.

I dress more professionally than our teachers. I get more respect from the students, parents, staff and district personal. Why can't teachers understand when you complain about needing more money, then become a professional and more people will listen and take your thoughts/wishes seriously.

Perhaps it is best to use the words appropriate dress rather than professional dress, but I do agree that teachers ought to dress appropriately. Students can be distracted easily - and looking at a teacher who is showing excessive skin/underclothes probably does not help the situation -especially for adolescents. Likewise, students should not distract teachers with their mode of dress. Secondly, the way we dress is another way we "teach" - some students lack role models and can learn a lot about non-academic matters by watching the way a teacher carries him/herself. Could it be that the rash of inappropriately dressed twenty-somethings is due to a lack of suitably dressed adults in their lives?

Let's remember that teachers are well-educated adults who are capable of deciding for themselves what is appropriate for the demands of their work. As the art teacher, I will be dressed professionally, but not in a dress suit and heels. If another adult has poor judgment, no need to make a blanket rule, insulting the intelligence of the entire staff; just talk individually and privately to that person.

First and foremost be practical within boundaries set by the school. Any school worth it's salt will make ALL of it's criteria for successful teachers crystal clear. Not to mention including a mentor for novice educators. I taught in a small rural setting and now in a large urban setting and have found that age doesn't matter when it comes to dress and appropriateness. I think the best policy is to "fit in" with other employees and expectations of administrators/supervisors regardless of the field. Unless you are promotion minded then you always dress a little beyond expectation---it can't hurt.

I can't believe I'm reading some of these comments from real teachers. Yes, we are responsible for the model we set for children....we are talking about impressionable children. Like it or not it is a part of our professional standards as teachers to always portray the connection with the world of professionals. That is what they should see every day they come into our classrooms. Why is it so hard for teachers to see themselves as professionals?

It's not hard for teachers to see themselves as professionals; it's hard for professionals in other fields or in other parts of the same field to recognize professionalism when they see it. Teaching isn't corner office or cubicle professionalism. It functions by a different set of criteria and to evaluate it by the office worker model is absurd in the extreme.

Teachers involve themselves in activities that are messy or require loose clothing... they get on the floor to help finish a project, they volunteer their time to help make sets for the school play, they climb onto tables to populate bulletin boards, use soap and water to wash blackboards, take kids out onto the field to play sports or observe pond life for a science lab. The expectation for professional dress needs to be appropriate to those activities.

Moderate, clean clothing is important for teachers... nothing too revealing or sloppy. Beyond neat, modest and servicable, there is no need for the kind of "professionalism" one finds on wall street.

Further... All teachers must be held by the same standards of dress. If the gym teacher can wear sweats and the art teacher can wear jeans, then so can all the other teachers. I dress perfectly respectably. Sometimes I wear dresses and pumps, sometimes I wear high quality jeans and blouses. I'm not going to dress like a wall street broker to glue and paint or climb up on tables to decorate my room and staple children's work to the walls. I'm an excellent teacher and I model hard work, patience, enthusiasm, commitment and passion for kids and for my subject as well as or better than any "suit" I've known.

As a teacher, how you dress has a lot to do with how you are perceived by the students, parents, and staff. At my children's middle school, the teachers wore very short skirts and very tight low-cut tops -- and this was to Open House! Amazingly, very few students did well academically in these teachers' classes; no doubt due to the young boys' inability to focus on school work rather than their teachers. And with teachers dressing provocatively, there's little doubt as to why there are so many young teachers having affairs with their students.
Teachers, quit whining about low pay and not bering able to afford nice clothing. Being professional means being grown up enough to know what is appropriate to wear to work and what is appropriate for after hours. No one is asking you to wear a suit, but if you are too casual, you won't get the respect you should receive. Students are there to learn, and they shouldn't be distracted by your clothing. School districts wouldn't have to resort to strict dress codes if teachers would use common sense. Kids need to learn how to dress appropriately, as teachers we should be role models.

I am a parent and I think most teachers dress appropriately. However there was one counselor (who was over 40) at my son's school who did not - belly showing, tank tops, rhinestone t-shirts, etc. And the kids (at an upper elementary school) made fun of her and didn't respect her. It made it harder for her to do her job effectively. I don't think there should be a dress code for teachers, but principals and experienced teachers should impress upon the staff that a teacher's clothing can adversely affect the learning process. If the kids don't respect you, they are not going to listen to you.

First, you don't have to be rich to look professional--just smart.If students can get by on five or fewer combinations of clothing when wearing uniforms, why can't teachers do the same thing and save their pennies for cruises. I am a high school teacher and what I teach requires moving around the classroom, etc. I have 10 pair of black pants, three pair of jeans which are worn only on "spirit" days, three each upscale cotton shirts, three polo looking shirts, my "spirit" shirt, and three silk shirts. Throw in a couple of blazers and you have a wardrobe for 10 months of the year just like the kids. Now, how simple is that, and you can maintain your "freedom." I wear jewelry that is simple and easy to maintain on and off. I have three tatoos and they are always covered. I don't mind this because I do think I'm setting an example for younger people. I tell them I didn't get any tatoos until I was past 21 years of age and that they should wait until then to permanently alter their skin. Also I noticed several grammatical errors in the posts. Some of our teachers may be indistinguishable from their pupils in more ways than one.

I've always worked in high schools. When I was teaching, I'd wear chinos, a dress shirt, and a tie. In California schools, that's pretty formal. I wasn't trying to impress parents or administrators, but I felt that professional dress enabled me to do my job more effectively. We have to be aware of what makes an impression on our students, and teenagers are very image-conscious. When my students saw me dressed professionally, they knew that I took teaching and learning seriously. They'd tell me as much. They'd also ask me about the teachers who wore shorts and flip-flops to work.

I have mixed feelings about teacher dress codes. I don't think professionals should be told how to dress; however, I believe that they should dress appropriately without having to be told. I agree with Althea that teachers should be payed as professionals, but I think we should take personal responsibility for changing our own image. We should promote professional behavior among educators first if we want public perception (and teacher salaries) to change.


Well, Rick Rizzle says:
I think that dress code should be left up to the student and they should be able to wear whatever they want to express themselves and make them feel comfortable

I think we should not have dress code beause being out of dress code shows who i really am.

I beive that we as student should not have to wearr dress code well am in high school and gtradute next year and i tink am old enof no know what to wear midle is ok and elementry too but not in high school student thats what i think.

My honest opinion on dress code is not that bad. I look at it like it is just a normal day.You just have to wear the same as everyone else.If my school were to change the dress code i would feel a little upset, but i would go get some eccesarys so i do not look like everyone else. It would be cheeper and proffesional looking.So my overal opinion is yes i would go along with the dress code.

Ibelieve that we should not have to wear dress code becase it is a wasit of money.First of all you will have to buy dress clothes for school,then you will have to buy regular clothes to go places in.So there for you should just buy regular clothes to wear when you are in school or out.Those are the reasons why I feel that we should not have to wear dress code.

I that dress code is good. My opinion of this is because it doesnt cause a distraction. Dress code makes every one look the same and causes less problems. It causes the kids to focus on their work more and not each others clothing. I would rather wear dress code then not wear it.

As a substitute teacher from PreK all the way through 12th, I have seen it all and not jsut in students. The main high school that I sub at has the easiest rules. No headgear, skirts must be fingertip length or longer, no obscene or rude comments on clothing, no pajamas, no spaghetti straps, no baggy jeans/pants, no revealing clothing, no bare midriffs. The teacher are expected to warn the student & then report them if it is not taken care of. I had a young lady wearing spaghetti straps, I asked her to put something on over it. Well, she did get her sweatshirt but didn't put in on. So I explained that she had a choice, put it on or visit the Assistant Principal. The sweatshirt went on. I have subbed for Art and Phys ed and I have appropriate clothing for both. Phys. Ed I have a pair of the nice windbreaker pants and shirt. Art-I have a smock to put on. in the hotter months, I have long flowing skirts with nice tops, and in the winter, I wear slacks and sweaters. I do not wear suits because even though I am a sub, I would look out of place. The only people that wear suits in the buildings that I work in are the Assistant Principal and Principal. If I wore suits, the other teachers would think that I am stuck up and that I think I am better than they are.
The main reason that I think that certain dress codes should be implemented is because of all the perverts out there who prey on young children and teens. All of these midriff baring, cleavage and thigh showing clothing only enforces these pedophiles perverted desires. Parents need to think about that when they allow their children out of the house in such clothing.

Teachers are professionals. They work very hard to become certified and teach not to make a fashion statement. How does the role model end of this fit in?

Students have the freedom of choice, yes, and you also have consequences for your choices. The majority of students that I have encountered reflected a poor self-esteem, a poor work ethic, and a moral attitude of "it's me life".
Is this what you will take with you when you graduate? We do not give out diplomas for the worst dressed student who wants to make a statement. We give out diplomas for education and hopefully a transition into the "real" world. This is were people have to comform to other peoples standards. Not unless you have enough money to go solo, then I say more power to you. Dress the way you want and see how it flys.

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Recent Comments

  • Donna L. Klos/Educator: Teachers are professionals. They work very hard to become certified read more
  • Jamie K.: As a substitute teacher from PreK all the way through read more
  • unique willams: I that dress code is good. My opinion of this read more
  • princess: Ibelieve that we should not have to wear dress read more
  • Teah: My honest opinion on dress code is not that read more




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