Dress code for teachers may be en route
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Thu., Aug. 30, 2012
The Vernon Board of Education moved to further discuss the creation and implementation of a dress code for faculty after some members expressed their disapproval of some staff attire in the hallways. “It's frustrating to me to walk into the high school, and be walking down the hall and seeing people and not realizing that they are teachers, because they are dressed as casually as the students,” said BOE Chairman Dean Houle. “That's not what I expect to see when I go in there, as far as being able to identify who's who.”
Superintendent Mary Conway said she had spoken with the board's attorney, who said the board has the right to put forth a policy, but that it would be a “bargainable issue” with the teachers' union, which she said could argue the specifics of the dress code and/or the potential that teachers would be required to spend their own money on new clothing.
Board member Michele Arn said that, as part of the policy committee, she looked into policies of other boards of education and the recommendations of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE). “The language is all extremely nebulous, because they are aware of the ramifications,” Arn said of CABE's suggested verbage.
After entertaining the motion to send the matter to the policy committee, Houle said the intent would be for the committee to create a policy, which the board would then vote on, but he added that a social networking policy proposed last year was presented and then quashed by the board. “The board wasn't ready for that policy,” Houle said. “This could be as hot an issue as that type of a policy. I know, personally, I'm interested in seeing us have a dress code policy. Those teachers in the classroom are role models, and what they project is what kids see.”
Some board members had a different point of view.
“Personally, I think we have far bigger things to worry about than a teacher dress code,” said board member Bill Nicholson. “I think we should focus on education and not worry about a dress code. We have bigger fish to fry.”
Board member Laura Bush agreed with Nicholson. “Because it is a negotiable thing,” she said, “we might be spending an extensive amount of effort trying to come to an agreement and not focusing on the idea of education. Encouragement through administration is a way to do this without putting a policy in place.”
Arn added that a policy could simply state that an administrator has power to make decisions about appropriateness, and that would not be challengeable. “At least we'd have something to allow the administration to fall back on and to help eliminate the issues,” she said, adding that the committee could bring back a policy that is not controversial or “grieveable.”
A 3-3 vote (board members Amarjit Buttar and David Kemp were absent) was broken by Chairman Houle's vote in favor of the committee to investigate forming a policy.