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|Litchfield Elementary School District's teacher dress code sparking questions
Blue hair, "extreme" hairstyles, facial piercings, distracting tattoos and "excessive" earrings are all prohibited under a new dress code in the Litchfield Elementary School District.
The rules aren't for students. The policy is for teachers and principals, but Pandora Jewelry Sale is especially aimed at the district's more than 600 teachers. The code was written to promote modesty and professionalism, district officials said. The board approved the policy July 10.
Some education officials familiar with the issue say the new dress code may be one of the most restrictive among metro Phoenix public schools. Many of the area's largest school districts ask teachers to dress professionally and to cover offensive tattoos. But in some smaller school districts, boards have tougher dress codes for teachers.
At a time when tattoos, edgy hair colors and facial piercings have lost their shock value, some teachers worry that dress codes are open to broad interpretation and are concerned about how the rules will be enforced.
The Litchfield rules show how one school district has grappled with balancing employees' personal freedom with a professional work environment.
Meanwhile, employment experts caution that dress codes must take into account legal issues, including employees from different cultural and religious backgrounds.
The Pandora Green Four-Leaf Clover Dangle Charm Litchfield district is headquartered in Litchfield Park, but includes 13 schools and more than 10,000 students in elementary and middle schools in Goodyear, Avondale, Buckeye and Litchfield Park.
For district teachers, the dress code creates many questions, said Carol Klein, a first grade teacher in the district.
"Where do they draw the line?" Klein asked.
District leaders created the policy because the organization didn't have a written policy and thought it was time to create one, said Shawn Watt, governing board president.
There have not been a lot of complaints about teachers who are dressed unprofessionally, district officials said.
Sara Griffin, a Litchfield governing board member, drafted most of the regulations for hair color, piercings, tattoos and clothing in the new policy. Griffin said tattoos, especially tattoos that cover the entire arm, can appear unprofessional, offensive or distracting.
"It should not be modeled as a norm from such Pandora Ring Pandora Charms 2016 a young age," Griffin has said at previous meetings.
The rules include prohibitions common in many workplaces. That includes rubber flip flops, visible undergarments, visible cleavage and bare midriffs.
Employees also can't wear clothes that are too tight, loose or transparent, short skirts or exercise pants. Tops may not bare shoulders.
Men would be required to wear shirts with a collar except under conditions such as school spirit days.
But other rules, which limit hairstyles, piercings and tattoos, have generated more debate.
During the debate before the dress code vote, Watt and other board members argued that piercings, certain hairstyles and tattoos have become mainstream and have lost major shock value.
"A lot of people have tattoos. I have tattoos. It shouldn't be a matter of personal taste," said Watt, adding, "I think we need to be careful about being too specific."
An earlier, more restrictive proposal was considered but not adopted because of concerns from Watt and other board members.
Principals and school administrators enforce day to day rules on staff conduct and appearance. Under the dress code, administrators may develop more restrictive guidelines for their campus, but they may not create less restrictive guidelines.
Other smaller districts have implemented similar rules, but don't include things like hair color.
Gilbert Public Schools and the Peoria Unified School District have dress codes similar to Litchfield's that regulate skirt length, appropriate shoes and apparel, facial piercings, offensive tattoos, and accessories.
Strict dress codes have several benefits, supporters say.
Written standards empower principals and administrators in charge of staff dress codes. Many policies are also written to keep staff safe in emergencies, or when operating heavy equipment in classes. Dress codes also help teachers to be better role models to students, supporters said.
Rae Conelley, principal at Frontier Elementary School in the Peoria district, said the new policy addressed modesty concerns at her school.