Want to wear jeans as a teacher? You may be out of luck.
It’s back-to-school week, and in some school districts throughout the country, the new year brings with it the introduction of a stricter dress code, but not for students — for teachers.
In July, the Litchfield Elementary School District (LESD) in Arizona approved a new dress code for its teachers. Some of the prohibited items include flip-flops and clothes that are too tight, too loose or transparent. The code doesn’t stop at clothes, however. It also bans “accessories, tattoos, jewelry/piercings, extreme styles or hair colors (i.e. green, blue, purple, pink, etc.) that are distracting to the learning environment,” according to the Professional Dress Policy Regulations and Guidelines found on the district’s website.
LESD’s guidelines state that its employees are seen as role models, a view echoed by its superintendent, Julianne Lein, who told USA TODAY that the new dress code was implemented because school board members were receiving complaints from parents.
“I think we need to teach our children early on that there’s a certain way you dress to go to a ball game versus going to your job,” said Marlon Hosang, principal of P.S. 64 Robert Simon School, in an interview with CBS New York. Hosang said the dress code had already been in place, but he had recently clarified what was expected as professional attire — flip-flops, gym clothes and jeans don’t make the cut.
Reactions from teachers about new dress codes have been both positive and negative. At least one teacher filed a complaint with the United Federation of Teachers in response to Hosang’s dress code.
Other teachers, however, have embraced their schools’ dress codes.
“There were some teachers that were relieved [when the policy was adopted]. They had felt uncomfortable about some of the choices that colleagues would wear in terms of modesty,” said Rae Conelley, the principal of Frontier Elementary School in Arizona’s Peoria Unified School District, in an interview with The Arizona Republic.
The trend of implementing dress codes for teachers has also received mixed reactions from those aspiring to teach someday.
“I think there is a need for a dress code, in the sense that teachers should look appropriate, but I don’t think they should ban things like jeans. I don’t think they’re inappropriate,” said Crystal Shah, a junior studying science education at Boston University.
“There should be some kind of dress code in place, so that teachers aren’t being disrespectful or distracting,” said Amanda Kuklinski, a junior minoring in education at Boston College.
Although both Shah and Kuklinski said they think clothing should reflect a sense of authority and professionalism, Shah disagrees with the policies that schools are implementing concerning tattoos and piercings.
“Regarding tattoos, I think it depends on the content of the tattoo, but in general, that’s a life choice that a teacher made in the past and there’s nothing he or she can do about it now,” Shah said.
Living in a world where tattoos, facial piercings and hair dyed unnatural colors are becoming more and more socially acceptable, it’s getting increasingly harder to define a professional look — a problem that current students will encounter as they embark on their careers as educators.
“I don’t think [tattoos and piercings] are unprofessional. If I worked at a school with that kind of policy, I’d ask for a reason as to why my nose piercing would negatively affect my students and I don’t think they’d be able to provide me with one,” Shah said. “I think [teachers’ looks] need to reflect that they’re professionals, but not so much to a point where students can’t approach them.”