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Should Schools Have Dress Codes For Teachers?

One school administrator's memo has sparked a debate about what it means to dress appropriately in the classroom.

A Georgia school superintendent's email to teachers is raising some eyebrows.

Superintendent Trent North of the Douglas County School District recently sent staff an email with a list of clothing items considered inappropriate  for teachers in the classroom. One item on the list, however, is causing a stir among the district's employees.

North's memo reads: "Please emphasize the expectation that attire be professional and appropriate. Some items of clothing that are not appropriate for work include jeans (except on Fridays), flip flops, sneakers, leggings (except when worn with an appropriate length dress), shorts and Capris."

It's that last item that's causing an uproar. According to local NBC affiliate WXIA, some are even calling it "ridiculous."

A local individual with family working in the school district, identified only as Kevin in order remain anonymous, said, "I think it's utterly ridiculous. Is the teacher wearing khakis going to improve test scores? Is it going to improve funding?"

"I don't think so," he concluded.

North later told WXIA that the memo wasn't a ban, but rather an expectation.

"All I said is no blue jeans, no flip-flops, and no shorts below the knee," he told the station. "If I have staff, and that's the gist of their wardrobe, that would concern me."

Further complicating matters is the fact that North has only been with the district for a matter of months. While some seem were surprised that dress code would be one of his top priorities, North says that's not quite the case.

According to North, a one of the district's principals asked about wardrobe expectations during a retreat, and the superintendent sent the email as a response.

The Douglas County controversy is just one case illustrating the ongoing conversation about what is and isn't appropriate classroom attire for teachers.

On one hand, educators acknowledge that proper attire is a crucial part of cultivating a respectful, professional environment in the classroom.

"It's important to dress the part," Sherrell Lanoix, who teaches fourth grade in Los Angeles, California, told the National Education Association (NEA). "Students, parents, and administrators take you more seriously when you come to work dressed as a professional."

Dr. Janet Stramel, Assistant Professor at the College of Education and Technology at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, reiterated the same sentiment. She told NEA, "Dress like a professional. A teacher who wears jeans or sweats, or tops that show cleavage, does not promote respect."

Still, some educators feel that the emphasis on dress codes is misplaced.

English teacher Bill McConnell told NEA, "We are professionals, and we don't need somebody telling us what we need to wear to work."

“We understand that we shouldn’t show up for work in sweatpants," McConnell continued. "We are adults and can make our own decisions. I dress in clothes that are practical for my job. I don’t need to wear a pair of $100 slacks to teach. It’s more practical and efficient to teach in blue jeans with a button-down shirt or a polo shirt.”

"It makes you feel like you're not considered a professional," 30-year veteran middle school teacher Donna Hanshew told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. "When you've got schools that are falling down—literally falling down around you—and then you're making a big deal out of a dress code for teachers, what does that say about your priorities?"

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