The currently imposed dress code standard by some states for their elementary and high school teachers is one of the issues faced by the US education system as of today. Drafted primarily because of the need to establish and fortify the sense of professionalism among the faculty members, the dress code policy is also believed to address the growing need to instill formality among the students. It has been observed that students nowadays constantly cross the borders of appropriate dressing in schools .
Some students have been reprimanded by school authorities for wearing provocative and revealing outfit inside the school confines. The wearing of plunging necklines, miniskirts, flip flops and stiletto heels have been the subject of concern because these outfits distract other students, hence, learning and the focus on the school lessons are compromised. Outbursts of violence are also stemmed out from the non-existence of uniforms in the public educational system. Because there are no uniforms, there is no way of immediately distinguishing which are the bona fide students from outsiders.
The US Department of Education’s Manual of School Uniforms, was disseminated to every single school district in the US as an answer to the above mentioned problem. This policy attracted various opinions and has sparked a number of debates among students, faculty members and concerned parents. But, the heated debates are not only limited to the issue of student’s attire. The teachers’ ways of dressing have also been a hot topic and this has prompted several states to require its educators to adhere to a strict dress code. Some states require teachers to wear uniforms.
Why Should Teachers Dress Professionally
Throughout the years, the term “appropriate dress” has always had been given different interpretations by generations. What was appropriate during the colorful hippie 70’s may not be acceptable for today’s black suit loving generation. The standard of formality, however, is being bended with its limits stretched. The phrases “dressing appropriately” or “dressing professionally” don’t always mean the same among people . The issue of certain lacrosse players wearing flip flops attending a formal White House function caused some sort of a justification for some professionals not to dress up while in their respective professional environment.
An outfit generally deemed appropriate for a date can now be worn when going to work. Definitely, there’s a vague line between what’s appropriate and what’s not. And this vagueness is what’s causing the confusion. Recently, supporters of the said teacher dress codes passionately say that teachers, as mentors, chiefly serve as role models for their students and should therefore emanate an equally positive attitude through their physical appearance, e. g. attires. The teachers’ choice of fashion should exhibit professionalism and respect, not the current fad.
These supporters also argue that uniformity in the quality and type of teacher clothing can boost the educators’ as well as the students’ morale and respect for their professional field. On the other hand, opponents argue that these teacher dress codes harm the education sector’s morale by mistreating teachers and that strict dress code/uniform requirements violate rights given to teachers under the U. S. Constitution. In a mentoring environment, it is very important that there is an established role model. In a school, the teachers are the main role models for the students.
The students look up to the teachers and this is important in developing the students’ sense of behavior. Therefore, it is imperative that the teachers exemplify all the proper behaviors and ways. Aside from teaching skills, the teachers’ behavior is also very important. Generally, fresh-out-of-college teachers are the ones having difficulties in determining which clothes are applicable to the classroom setting from what are not. Before they were the ones seated in the classroom chairs, listening to the teacher.
They had the complete freedom of wearing what they want, be it skimpy and trendy, but now they are transformed to being the more modest and professional educators teaching in front of a classroom. It is understandable that in this young stage of their professional career, they have not yet shed their stylish and trend conforming days. Inappropriately dressed teachers are especially prevalent in elementary schools, where these entry level teachers are traditionally trained. Not all school districts impose teacher dress codes, however.
Some school principals customarily reprimand students and teachers alike for dress-code violations and fashion infractions while other school officials are not too tight about their student and teacher’s fashion sense. School districts that do impose such policies are very particular with what not to wear. For example, school authorities are currently implementing dress for their faculty members and staff in Arizona. They said that they want to set an example for students. Sexually provocative attires like scanty shorts, mini skirts, offensive tops, flip-flops and T-shirts are banned.
Tempe’s Thew Elementary School as well as the Chandler Unified School District is strict in implementing the dress codes. One school authority was quoted saying that if “they (teachers) could mow the lawn, exercise or go out for the evening in what they’re wearing, it’s likely not appropriate for school” . Pro-dress code teachers and school officials believe that dressing in a very professional manner commands respect from their students. People in authority are expected to dress appropriately always.
Teachers say that since they are expected to dress neatly and professionally, they should be faithful in adhering to the proper dress code standards. The Arizona Republic reports a certain Brian Black, who is one of the state’s veteran teachers, says, If I wish a student to dress ‘appropriately,’ it is my responsibility to reflect such (a) standard… If I wish a student to conduct himself or herself in an socially acceptable manner, especially in the area regarding use of ‘appropriate’ language when in contact with others, it is my responsibility to also reflect such (a) standard.
(Karina Bland, Sept. 13, 2005). Also, the Wake county Public School System has issued this memo: All faculty and employees of the Wake County Public School System serve as role models for the students with whom they work and as leaders in the community. Consistent with these roles, all faculty and employees shall dress in a manner and have an appearance that is appropriate and professional in light of the environment in which they work, the duties of their jobs and the impressionable youth they serve.
Supervisors and school-level administrators are authorized to interpret this policy and their interpretations shall be given deference. (Wake County Public Schools) The response of students to teachers like this is positive, as the students think that their teachers are really inspired to teach them. A profound effect on students was also observed in schools strictly implementing the teacher dress codes. Students emulate their teachers.
Because teachers want to appear more professional, and they want to positively address the nationwide clamor for strict professionalism, our educators and school administrators are dressing more businesslike. Certainly, the positive effects brought about by the teacher dress codes have encouraged more and more school districts to follow suit. But opponents of this policy have also argued and voiced out their opinions regarding the matter. Some teachers cite that the dress codes violate their academic freedom and freedom of choice.
No long term studies and researches that aims to assess the school uniforms and dress codes’ effectiveness with respect to its supposed effect of improving student’s behavior have been conducted by any research body. But still, supporters say that the implementation of dress code policies will eventually enhance schools’ educational achievement. These policies may even help in developing student behaviors. There are certain potential benefits that students will gain from these policies. Some teachers do find the very idea of implementing dress codes insulting, as if teachers don’t know how to properly dress themselves.
Definitely, this issue has raised a lot of other sub-issues: whether the implementation itself is appropriate, should it be implemented on a national level, should the dress codes and uniform policy should include faculty members, or what defines inappropriate dressing. The interim spokesman for the American Association of School Administrators, Bruce Hunter, said, “For us, it’s a local issue. Some people feel more comfortable with certain styles, and you have to see what dress does to the learning environment. ” . This position of the AASA resulted in the school districts’ different takes and views on the matter.
School districts consider it their prerogative if they would indeed implement the policy or if they would not. It is also the school district’s prerogative what to consider as inappropriate. Also, the school districts with more aggressive and opinionated teachers coupled with more tolerant school administrators tend to be more lax in their dress code policies, or they don’t have a dress code policy at all. The variations in the policies of respective school districts results in confusion as to what is generally forbidden.