Schools to consider dress code for teachers

Open-toe sandals without stockings would be taboo and blue jeans would be discouraged as part of a new dress code being considered for Carson City School District employees.

The dress code would replace a long-time policy that administrators say is vague and difficult to enforce.

"We have a policy, but it's pretty broad. This is much more specific," said Mary Pierczynski, the school district's associate superintendent of human resources. "We wanted to spiff ourselves up without causing World War III."

A stricter dress code probably wouldn't made a difference to the majority of school district employees, but a few dress inappropriately, Pierczynski said.

"If we want to be treated like professionals, then we need to look like it," she said. "Some people are dressing just too casually. Not everyone, just a few."

Teachers and students interviewed Tuesday about the proposed code said practical considerations and comfort should be part of the equation.

Carson High School chemistry teacher John Valley wears jeans, but they're typically hidden under a lab coat.

Whether teaching a lab class or mixing chemicals, Valley said he prefers jeans. His preference is based on cost: If he burns a hole in a pair of jeans, they cost $20 to replace.

A pair of good pants cost double, he said, gesturing to several stained and pock-marked lab coats.

If Valley is lecturing for the day, he said he wears regular pants or colored jeans.

Student Annie Scott, who was working in Valley's lab, said teachers should decide what is appropriate dress.

"It all depends what you're doing. Mr. Valley wouldn't be wearing a $1,000 Armani suit if he was blowing things up in the lab," she said.

Comfort should be the determining factor in what teachers wear, Carson High School student Jessica Posey said.

"No jeans, that's not a good idea. They should be able to dress however they want," she said.

It's easier to identify with a teacher if they're dressed down, said student Jamie Day.

The draft code was compiled by school district officials, in conjunction with representatives of Ormsby County Education Association and Nevada Classified School Employees Association.

The policy is expected to be presented to Carson City School Board trustees at their Nov. 23 meeting.

A revised code is needed, said school board trustee Jean Kvam.

"As professionals, we need to model our behavior. T-shirts and jeans - that in my book is not professional," she said. "The only opponents are those who wear jeans all the time."

The code would require skirts and shorts to be within 4 inches of the knee. Tank tops, muscle shirts, sweat suits and tight outer clothing would be prohibited and stockings would be required with open-toe shoes.

Many of the rules would not apply to physical education teachers or if a teacher is conducting a messy project in class.

Facial jewelry, excluding earrings, would also be barred.

Regular wearing of blue jeans would be discouraged. But if jeans are worn, staff will be encouraged to dress them up with a blazer or a collared shirt, Pierczynski said.

Discretion would be given to the school's principals to designate a specific jeans day. The proposed rule requiring stockings to be worn with sandals could be waived in hot weather.

If jeans are accompanied by a collared shirt, they're acceptable, said Mike Ekberg, a Carson High School physical education teacher.

Stone-washed jeans are OK, but blue jeans are a bit too casual for school, Ekberg said.

The line between acceptable and unacceptable shouldn't hinge on jeans but whether students are distracted by the clothing, he said.

The dress code is not unreasonable, said Carol Antila, a Seeliger Elementary School teacher who helped draft it.

Younger children especially look up to teachers and for that reason T-shirts, cut-off jeans and Birkenstocks are inappropriate, Antila said.

The controversial item will likely be the restriction on open-toe sandals, Antila said.

"But we're not going to the beach, we're coming to school to be professional," she said.

The decision to adopt a dress code puzzled Ekberg. If inappropriate dress applied to just a few school district employees, then why weren't they talked to individually? she asked.

Dress codes are in place for students but vary from school to school.


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