Hi Diane!I hear you! That is definitely a sensitive situation! I work at a center with a pretty strict dress code for this very reason; we have a whole section dedicated to it in our staff handbook. We are required to wear black pants and plain white shirts. In addition, we have to wear a center-provided apron. Our shirts are not allowed to have any pictures or words on them (this is clearly stated in the dress code section of our handbook). My employer is passionate about maintaining a professional environment and also wants parents and children to easily identify who is on staff at the center. They instituted this strict dress code shortly after opening their first center because things got unprofessional and out of control when it came to how teachers were dressing. Now that the dress code is in place, they are able to quickly and easily address anyone who breaks it with minimal drama and hurt feelings.
It is expected that teachers of young children will get dirty. Clothes should be clean, of a washable nature and allow for sitting on the floor. Teachers are expected to present a professional appearance. Therefore, skimpy clothing or shirts with slogans or political type statements or pictures may not be worn. Shorts may be worn when the temperature is over 80 degrees, but short shorts are not acceptable. Fingernails must not present a danger to children.I have asked a teacher to turn a shirt inside out one time when she wore an inappropriate shirt to work.
This is from our EMPLOYEE POLICIES HANDBOOK
Appropriate attire for all employees includes:
Inappropriate attire for all employees includes:
Staff Dress and Appearance Code
As professionals and caregivers in our school, we realize and value the public's perception of our roles as mentors and models for students, families and the community. It is paramount that we provide a safe, neutral space for being and learning for all. Therefore, the following dress code will apply to all teachers, aides, secretaries, administrators, staff, and volunteers and parent volunteers at our center. This dress code is to be applied for all work days, professional development days, school related events, and during parent-teacher conferences.
We want to model a uniform and professional appearance for the students and families we serve. All clothing must be clean, and in good repair.
The following are NOT allowed:
Employees and volunteers who do not, in the judgment of the administrator/supervisor, do not conform to this dress code will be asked to change clothing or remove items that are not permissible in addition to verbal or written notice from the administrator/supervisor. Repeated violations or refusal to comply with the directions of the school administration by an employee could result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.
We thank you for your support in protecting a safe, wholesome, and age-appropriate educational setting for our children.
You could also provide photos or images of appropriate or inappropriate clothing or dress.
On Jul 6, 2020, at 10:15 AM, Diane Lancaster <email@example.com> wrote:
Thank you so much everyone. I was not aware that this would be such an issue. I just needed to add something in my handbook about sayings. She does not look as inappropriate because she is honoring someone but she has a #BLM and the date on it. Of course me personally like the shirt and support it but it's just not appropriate for a preschool. The kiddos can't read it but the parents can. I will use this info in my handbook. It helps a lot. Thanks Diane
On Jul 6, 2020, at 10:15 AM, Diane Lancaster <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you so much everyone. I was not aware that this would be such an issue. I just needed to add something in my handbook about sayings. She does not look as inappropriate because she is honoring someone but she has a #BLM and the date on it. Of course me personally like the shirt and support it but it's just not appropriate for a preschool. The kiddos can't read it but the parents can. I will use this info in my handbook. It helps a lot. Thanks
I'm glad you came to this group for thinking. I appreciate your courage in asking this question. It's not always easy to ask these uncomfortable questions. I'd agree with others that to institute a dress code in response to a Black Lives Matter t-shirt will be hurtful to both Black staff and Black parents as well as to other staff and parents who feel strongly that we need to be clear that Black lives matter. Not only that, but it's missing a wonderful opportunity to talk to your children about Black lives mattering and why it's important to say that clearly in the world we live in.
We know that children are noticing race from infancy and that starting at age 3 they are very vulnerable to stereotypes which they experience all around them. We also know that by age 3 or 4 children (especially White children) have started to internalize the message that "we don't talk about race". This, in combination with their tendency to pay more attention to what adults do than what we say, means that they begin to take their exploration of topics like race and gender out of earshot of adults. Because of this, adults need to be very intentional in letting children know that we want to talk about race with them. Otherwise, they end up exploring issues of race and racism without any caring adult by their side to support and guide them.
So how will you communicate to your children and families that Black lives matter to you and your center? This is a great opportunity to think about that. Your staff person wearing a t-shirt that will raise the topic with children and families is one way, but there are also many others.
As you can tell, I'm passionate about this topic and am happy to talk more- either here or via private message or email.
The purpose of this policy is to outline the requirements for Discovery Learning Center in regards to the dress code for teachers and support staff.
Teachers may dress casually but are still expected to be professional. Clothing must allow teachers to bend, sit, squat, and move in comfort and without exposure.
It is the responsibility of each teacher to ensure that the clothing and articles that they wear each day are in line with the following guidelines:
Any teacher not properly attired when reporting for work may be sent home to change. Any time lost due to such action will be considered unpaid time. Repeat dress code violation will result in written disciplinary action.
I notice that my 3 month old grandson is fascinated by the patterns and designs on the tee shirts I often wear. He gazes at them for long periods, especially when it is one I haven't worn for a while. He doesn't understand exactly what I say about the designs-how I bought it while visiting his great-grandfather several years ago and it reminds me of that trip, or how another was made by wax-resist painting by an artist so each shirt is a unique work of art, and another is from a march for science representing that all children are scientists. But it is a way to connect who I am with his interest in the graphics, including words.
Each professional is a person with social histories and identities, and beliefs that we might express by wearing jewelry with a religious symbol, or a tee shirt celebrating science education, a statement of self-love, or a stance against racism and white supremacy.
The questions Encian's school uses as a way to determine if a shirt image is appropriate for staff to wear are very helpful and can help us all think about how to share our graphic messages with others. I agree with Kristin that we use moments of being uncomfortable to think about our own understandings. Meg says it well: "adults need to be very intentional in letting children know that we want to talk about race with them. Otherwise, they end up exploring issues of race and racism without any caring adult by their side to support and guide them….talk to your children about Black lives mattering and why it's important to say that clearly in the world we live in." Those messages are certainly child-related as Christina suggests should be the criteria for words on clothing.
I can understand a program wanting to put the program's name and logo in front of the adults who are considering enrolling or currently have children enrolled in the program. The idea that Sandra suggests of having a day each week for personal choice is one way to avoid erasing the person inside the professional while still keeping the program identity visible. As the article Margery shared by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz discusses, any dress code should be consistently and equitably enforced.
Honoring who we educators are-our histories, beliefs, and styles-honors what makes us the professionals who will honor and individually support the needs of each child.