Wake board wants crackdown on teachers' attire

Flip-flops, low tops and miniskirts could bring a dressing-down from principals.

Staff WriterFebruary 24, 2011 

— No more tight-tight tops. No more short-short skirts. And - ahem, you there, young man - no more flip-flops.

When it comes to attire, the Wake County school board wants principals to crack down.

On teachers, that is.

Wake teachers will soon get a reminder they should be dressing better than students after school board members raised concerns Wednesday that some teachers, especially younger ones, are dressing inappropriately.

"Some of our teachers are young, hip and cool and want to wear their colorful flip-flops," said school board member Debra Goldman, chairwoman of the board's policy committee. "But is that professional?"

School board policy says that 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."

Goldman noted how the student dress code is far more detailed. It lists examples of what students can't wear, including sagging pants, excessively short garments, bare midriff shirts and strapless shirts.

"Teachers are coming in with a camisole with a low top, flip-flops and a short skirt," Goldman said. "But the students are not allowed to do that. How is that OK?"

Superintendent Tony Tata said he'd talk with school district staff to remind them of the employee dress code.

Tama Bouncer, president of the Wake County chapter of the N.C. Association of Educators, which represents 5,000 Wake school employees, says it's not a widespread problem.

Bouncer, a former elementary school teacher, said some young teachers may not have made the wardrobe transition from being a college student to being an educator. She said veteran teachers may privately counsel younger colleagues about their attire without getting the principal or assistant principals involved.

"Students should look at teachers as role models," Bouncer said.

The discussion about teacher attire was part of a review Wednesday of student and employee dress codes.

Reviewing student code

School board attorney Ann Majestic recommended making some changes to the student dress code to avoid running afoul of First Amendment issues.

The committee agreed not to recommend changes to the employee dress code after Tata said he'd address the problem.

Tata said they shouldn't make the employee dress code overly proscriptive.

But he told board members that they can tell teachers that the school board's clothing standards are higher for employees than for students.

"If we need a little reminder," Tata said after the meeting, "Then we can certainly mention it to our staff to be professionally attired."

Teachers these days.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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