Wake school board debates teacher attire

Few see need to dictate code

Staff WriterMarch 11, 2011 

— Some Wake County school board members are making it clear they don't want to play the role of fashion police when it comes to what teachers are wearing in school.

Superintendent Tony Tata recently agreed to remind teachers of the need to dress professionally, after school board member Debra Goldman complained that some younger educators were wearing inappropriate clothing in the classroom.

But board members whoweren't at that committee meeting are emphasizing that they're not calling for any kind of crackdown on attire.

"I don't think we need to be codifying what they are wearing," said school board member Chris Malone. "There are already some professional standards for how they are supposed to dress."

Tata will talk with principals about the employee dress code at a countywide meeting.

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."

But at the Feb. 23 meeting of the policy committee that Goldman chairs, she brought up issues with some teachers wearing flip-flops, excessively short skirts and tops that showed too much cleavage. She suggested that the employee dress code be made more like the student dress code, which lists examples of prohibited dress.

"I hate that we have to spell it out, but I think we do," Goldman said at the committee meeting.

But Goldman, who said she had heard complaints from parents about teacher attire, held off on voting for a change in the policy after Tata agreed to handle the matter.

Goldman did not return calls this week.

Some board members are distancing themselves from her concerns, saying they think it's a small problem.

"I don't think we need some kind of strict policy," said board member Deborah Prickett, a former teacher and school counselor. "We've got so many other things to deal with. It's low on the totem pole."

Malone said he's never seen any problems with the way teachers are dressed when he visits Wake Forest-Rolesville High School, where two of his children attend.

School board member John Tedesco said he has complete confidence in the professionalism of Wake's teachers to dress appropriately. "I do believe in high standards of professionalism among our staff, but I don't believe it's a significant problem," he said.

Tama Bouncer, president of the Wake County chapter of the N.C. Association of Educators, also doesn't think that there's a widespread problem of teachers dressing unprofessionally. But she said that principals will be prompted to resolve the few problems they have after hearing about the issue from Tata.

"Principals will make the decision that if it's really a concern with anyone on their staff, they'll deal with it," Bouncer said.

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

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