Should School Administrators Enforce a Teacher Dress Code?

I like walking into a school and knowing immediately who the principal and assistant principals are judging solely on how they are dressed. I like knowing who the teachers are and appreciate paraprofessionals who live up to that name “para,” i.e. alongside in a supportive capacity.

I like meeting a principal who has on business dress. I like the air of respect it brings to a building, to the personnel, to the profession. I like knowing that the person in charge has enough respect for him/herself and for the profession to make an effort to be, well, professional.

I like teachers who look professional rather than like they are going to a school picnic. I like paraprofessionals who have the same respect for the profession as a certified teacher.

I taught for thirty years in private and public schools and have witnessed the gradual deterioration of professional dress during that time. As I recall, it started with Friday Spirit Day. On Fridays we all wore some sort of dress pants or skirt along with our school colors or school polo. We did it to show spirit. Spirit Day then became “dress-down” day. I remember teachers commenting: When did Fridays cease to be “spirit” day and become “grunge” day?

The effect was enormous. Fridays became watch a movie/video day, celebration day, reward day, party day. Students began skipping Fridays because “We don’t do anything in class anyway.” Oh, I know…some of you are going to disagree with me because you still hold the standards high. But I’m guessing you are few and far between.

I must ask: How much has lowering our dress standards influenced lowering our academic standards? I think the question is viable and the answer is important. If the influence is as I imagine-fairly substantial-then I will address the question to superintendents and administrators: What are you going to do about it?

I’ll give you a firsthand example of how dress affects students. Way back in the early 1980s, I taught at a parochial school. The dress standards were fairly stiff. The students were allowed to wear jeans only on Fridays. The jeans could not be too tight, too worn, torn, or have frayed hems. But students pushed the limits, as students often do, wearing them too tight, etc. The school board then said, “No more jeans.” The students rebelled.

Okay, they said, we’ll follow the rules. Give us another chance. The school board agreed. The students blew it-again! So no more jeans. The school board suggested uniforms. The students and parents disagreed, saying it hampered individuality. Brautkleider kaufen

As an extreme response, and to make a point, the Associated Student Body (ASB) got together and decided they would institute their own dress code: dress pants and shirts for the guys, only dresses/skirts for the girls. No more jeans. The parents rebelled. “Too expensive,” they said. The students pressed on, hoping to paradoxically make their point and get the school board to bend. It worked.

Under parental pressure, the school board caved and said, “Okay, we’re giving up on having a dress code.” To the surprise of everyone, the students refused to give up their newly instituted dress code because…in their own words…

We like the way everyone acts when we are more dressed up. We are nicer to each other. We act like ladies and gentlemen. The boys treat the girls with more respect. The girls are even nicer to other girls. We don’t want to give up our dress code. And so the student dress code remained in effect, enforced by the students themselves.

I, for one, was very proud of the students for taking the matter into their own hands. I have not stretched the truth here; this actually happened just this way.

What about uniforms? I applaud those schools and school districts who insist on uniforms for the students. It does indeed level the playing field. From time to time, news talk shows highlight schools and students from underprivileged as well as prep schools who have done something worthy, and these students are usually wearing uniforms-often dress pants/skisst, dress shirts, blazers, and ties. I am impressed, and they seem to have a certain pride about themselves

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