Should Teachers Have a Dress Code?

Some parents in South Orange County believe their children's instructors don't always dress appropriately for school.

Should teachers have a dress code? Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo
Should teachers have a dress code? Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo
Anna Marie Hanks of San Clemente moved about a year ago from Virginia and right away noticed a number of differences in her second-grader's school. Among other things, the teachers dress inappropriately.

"Some of our teachers dress like they are going to the club," she said at Wednesday night's superintendent’s forum. Hanks wanted to know if the Capistrano Unified School District had a dress code.

Superintendent Joseph Farley said the district did not, but if he were in charge -- which got a chuckle; he is the head honcho -- he'd institute one. He, for one, hates to see teachers in flip flops.

He asked if the other parents there agreed teachers could use a dress code. They did.

But it's a matter of law, Farley said. The teachers have their freedom of expression. 

Hanks pointed out that the students don't necessarily enjoy the same freedom.

"If our high schoolers have to have a dress code, I think the teachers have to lead by example," she said.

A USA Today report found in 2012 that several public school districts across the nation are implementing a dress code, everything from prohibiting jeans to covering up tattoos to banning spaghetti straps. 

Prompted by that report, the Sacramento Bee checked districts around the capital and discovered many had dress codes, though most were fairly vague, requiring professional attire.


Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 17, 2014 at 01:02 PM
LOL, stuck in the 7th grade, are we? ;-)
another mom January 17, 2014 at 01:06 PM
YES, YES, YES!! 2 examples: An Assistant Principal at Tesoro refusing to allow volleyball players into a football game (in their uniforms from a game just won!) because their shorts were too short--all while her low-cut blouse was exposing her more than ample chest. We were in line behind them, and every person near us commented on the hypocrisy. Also, a teacher at a middle school was a former playboy bunny or playmate? She dressed like she still was one, and she's no kid anymore...
Shripathi Kamath January 17, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Hmm, perhaps that explains why that song from Van Halen's immortal 1984 album kept playing in my head as I read the article.
Annie G. January 17, 2014 at 01:21 PM
Bad teacher comes to mind. Yea-- teachers are hard to recognize sometimes, the guys wear jeans and regular tops, and some lady teachers give their male students more education than necessary. Dress Code!!
Eileen G. January 17, 2014 at 01:29 PM
Businesses have a dress code why shouldn't a school for it's teachers?
Annie G. January 17, 2014 at 01:30 PM
Exactly. These people are teaching our KIDS, and professionalism in dress is a lesson that is free.
Katherine V. January 17, 2014 at 02:02 PM
Bet the volleyball girls' shorts weren't any shorter than the cheerleaders' skirts and they obviously get into the football games. If its good enough to be a school team uniform, it should be good enough for dress code. (Except the swim and water polo teams). :)
another mom January 17, 2014 at 02:09 PM
Katherine V., I agree. Did I mention that the temperature that evening was down to 90+ from a 100+ high that afternoon? The sad thing was that these young women were so proud that they had just won, and they were heading to the spirit section to cheer on another team--what great school spirit! Instead, they were met by a school administrator who chose treat them in a way that made them feel self-conscious and objectified, rather than empowered by their hard-fought victory. Clearly this "educator" was out of line. She is still in place at Tesoro and is in charge of deciding whether dance dresses are appropriate at winter formal. I shudder to think of what she might be wearing.
Chris S January 17, 2014 at 02:33 PM
The majority of teachers use good judgement when dressing for work. As a parent with a school in South County, I am more concerned with classroom overcrowding and parents who don't take the time to make their kids better students. Not everything requires new rules and regulations.
another mom January 17, 2014 at 02:35 PM
There are many more important problems in schools that need to be addressed, but I don't believe that means that smaller issues should be ignored. This is an easy fix--at least hold the teachers to the same dress code as the students.
John A. Rayment January 17, 2014 at 05:30 PM
When and if you go out into the business World you will have to wear a suit and tie. Teachers if the want respect should all dress appropriately.
fact checker January 17, 2014 at 05:49 PM
If there is a problem with an individual teacher it should be addressed by administration. A dress code for everyone is not necessary, is very subjective (who decides what is appropriate dress?), and would waste administrative time.
another mom January 17, 2014 at 05:56 PM
Regarding the business world...less suit and tie uniforms in the world compared to when I started out. Neither my husband or I wears formal business attire very often anymore, nor do our clients and we are an attorney and a cpa. I have no problem with casual clothing for teachers, but they must, in my opinion, at least uphold the standard to which the students are held, or their credibility is shot.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 17, 2014 at 06:28 PM
Looks like readers overwhelmingly would prefer a dress code for teachers. So far, we have 123 participants in the poll, with only 29 suggesting a dress code is unnecessary.
fact checker January 17, 2014 at 06:31 PM
Easy to say, harder to define. Even the business world doesn't seem to agree on appropriate attire.
Shripathi Kamath January 17, 2014 at 06:32 PM
"Should Patch editors have a dress code?" 1. No, everyone should dress like Pete. 2. Yes, everyone should dress like Penny. 3. Sartorial resplendence is not for everyone, so maybe 4. More hoochie mama, please 5. Only for lobster dinners.
rob January 17, 2014 at 07:05 PM
Yu see the same in private schools. Teachers dressing not so conservative, neither do some parents, then you have the teachers that flaunt their tats.
Tornado Johnson January 17, 2014 at 07:52 PM
What is wrong with a dress code? Many businesses have dress codes.
Becky Blackburn Roumimper January 17, 2014 at 08:10 PM
As a second grade teacher, I agree that teachers need to dress professionally. However, we also need to be comfortable. I spend a lot of my day on the rug with my students so I rarely wear a skirt.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 17, 2014 at 08:34 PM
So I read this article to one of my kids who said a middle school teacher sure made all the boys happy with her short skirts. Hoo-ha and everything exposed! Shri, your kind of teacher!
Maura Mikulec January 17, 2014 at 10:44 PM
I'm thinking....teachers should dress in a way that is conducive to them doing their jobs, and in a way that is not a distraction to students. Their bosses should enforce those *guidelines* (as opposed to rules.). And if an individual principal wants to have a dress code for his or her school, that should be their prerogative. Just my opinion. I'm not aware of a problem, per se, except what other posters have mentioned.
MayMom January 18, 2014 at 10:21 AM
I agree that education should be a focus. However, I am surprised at what some teachers, aides and supervisors wear. I don't think jeans should be banned or tattoos should be covered (unless they are inappropriate). Comfort was mentioned - yes teachers are on the floor and helping with PE so they need to be comfortable. When clothing can be a distraction, especially at middle and high school levels, it should be considered for banning.
Homer January 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM
"10 Things not to wear when you are over 50" must have canvased the local elementary schools.
nobody January 18, 2014 at 12:20 PM
I agree with fact checker, I don't think a dress code is necessary, but, I can say one teacher at the middle school my children attend, goes to school dressed as if she were going to the bar. The moms talked to the principal and the problem was solved. She was wearing a very cute top with a plunging neckline for curriculum night, I don't if she was distracting the kids, but she was for sure getting all the dad's attention :)
fact checker January 18, 2014 at 01:05 PM
Nobody, exactly! Parents with a problem about how a teacher dresses should approach the administration. Now...........how shall we deal with how some of the parents were dressed at curriculum night? :)
fact checker January 18, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Homer, are we to assume you have no problem with the way teachers dress, as long as they are young and attractive?
nobody January 18, 2014 at 02:19 PM
You are right fc, I'm a mom, and I personally don't care about how teachers and/or parents dress for curriculum night, I agree that is not OK that an attractive female teacher is showing a little too much to a bunch of teenage students, but this is the exception, not the rule, and it can be fixed without any bureaucracy.
Sonny Morper January 19, 2014 at 12:40 PM
As a principal, retired, for 28 years, "dress for success" is a good motto and the style should fit the classroom. Expect teachers on their feet all day to dress in comfortable shoes, tennis shoes, for P.E., for sure. The more business type look is more appealing but dressing like you are going to church is not necessary. Women's styles usually get the most attention over time. High heels, nylons and dress or skirts were the norm when I taught. Shorter skirts and pant suits soon became the style, men wore sport coats and always a tie. School administrators, including women, have generally maintained a more conservative business look,though suits have gone the way of cotton slacks particularly with middle and high school educators modeling spirit shirts and other school labeled clothing. Today, any teacher is general accepted when wearing less formal school clothes, in fact they seem to add to student school spirit when they do wear the school emblemed items. The sexy look of provocative clothes has no place in the school business, but the look is in the eye of the beholder and many times in the negotiated contract. Where today's cleavage look was out when I started teaching, today a sensible approach is to ask whether it detracts from ones ability to teach or administer with the greatest positive effect or is the " look" detracting from a great educator becoming exceptionally great. Tongues will wag among our adolescent youth with little provocation and certainly among their parents. Better to portray the competent, highly thought of professional educator who is working to make the school distinguished than known for unnecessary, unfortunate, and derisive behind the back comments that only bring contempt to the profession. The chances are better for success and higher performing schools when everyone dresses for success including students, parents who come to the school, and most important those who are there to educate. P.S. Leave the flip flops at home, everyone.
CHK January 23, 2014 at 03:47 PM
Perhaps the teacher need to wear school uniforms too?
nobody January 23, 2014 at 04:02 PM
lol CHK! The "former playboy bunny" middle school teacher will be happy with your idea!


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