Thursday, July 27, 2000

Teacher dress code a poor fit

        I am trying really hard to imagine my fifth-grade teacher, Miss Spur, in anything besides black lace-up shoes (we called them ground-grippers) and a voluminous skirt with a matching jacket. Oh, and she kept a hankie tucked down the front of her flowered blouse.

        When Miss Spur fumbled interminably in the excavation and retrieval of her hankie, we assumed it had snagged on her brassiere hardware. Not on a nipple ring.

        I know things have changed since then, but the Campbell County Board of Education appears convinced that unless educators are provided very, very specific standards, the teachers' lounge will look like a Smashing Pumpkins concert. Or a Madonna look-alike contest.

No peekaboo shirts
        A new dress code forbids teachers to show up at work wearing leotards or muscle shirts. Sheer or see-through clothing and backless tops also are prohibited.

        So, perhaps the board of education has received complaints from 14-year-old boys who were unable to concentrate on their algebra.

        Not according to Chris Gramke, spokesman for Campbell County Schools, who told the Enquirer no complaints had been made by students or parents about teachers' apparel. He said the board was merely hoping to avoid problems.

        On the list of forbidden items are over-the-knee boots. I guess they're anticipating a stern dominatrix who wants to crack the whip by cracking a whip in social studies class.

        Meanwhile, school principals have been robbed of a diagnostic tool. Any teacher dumb enough to show up in these things is probably not somebody we want teaching our children anyway.

        Some of the regulations are just confusing. For instance, the ban on Hawaiian wear. Does this include muu-muus? Who will decide whether the teacher is just wearing a very large, very colorful dress or whether she is dressed to go clubbing with Don Ho?

        Why Hawaii?

        Did the gym teacher show up in a grass skirt? Was the history teacher seen in a coconut bra? What about Parrothead shirts? Technically, this is Florida wear, as Jimmy Buffett lives in Key West not Waikiki. Is that Texas cowboy stuff acceptable? What about leather?


Capri or capricious?
        Capri pants. There's another one just ripe for misinterpretation. According to the dictionary, these are close-fitting women's pants that end above the ankle. What if she's just a big woman? Let's say all her clothes — despite her best efforts and a lifetime membership in Weight Watchers — are what you might call close? Or she's just tall?

        Naturally, the teachers' union is a little huffy about the new rules. “Completely unnecessary” was the official response.

        The dress code committee pointed to restrictions imposed on students. “If we hold our students to a dress code, how can we expect anything less from our teachers?” said a member.

        One assumes the administration might have to spell out all kinds of things to children that an adult might find obvious. Or insulting. Such as telling teachers they should avoid showing up in peekaboo blouses.

        “We aren't trying to be fashion police,” Mr. Gramke said. “This will help ensure professionalism from our teachers.”

        It might be easier to simply treat them like professionals. Or, at least, like adults.

        E-mail Laura at or call (513) 768-8393.


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