ANNAPOLIS – Some teachers need to class up their acts, lawmakers and students told the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday.
While most teachers dress acceptably, there are a few who have “outrageous dress behavior” and need a dress code to rein them in, said Del. Tony Fulton, D-Baltimore.
His bill to make school systems adopt a teacher dress code came after he visited a school in his district.
“I saw a teacher who was dressed in a cut-off sweatshirt and tattered jeans with holes in them, and I asked myself: `Is this a teacher or a janitor?'” Fulton said.
He said teachers serve as role models for students, beginning with the way they dress. His bill, House Bill 58, calls for local school boards to set and enforce dress codes for their teachers.
No one spoke against the bill, which was enthusiastically supported by students who said they are subject to dress codes and teachers should be, too.
“Students definitely notice when a teacher’s skirt is too high or they’re wearing open-toed shoes, but I’ve never heard a teacher go up to another teacher and say that something is inappropriate,” said Abbey Wilson, a junior at Severna Park High School.
Fulton’s bill won unanimous support Saturday from the 600- member Maryland Association of Student Councils, which represents student governments from across the state.
But local school officials said they did not see a need for a teacher dress code.
Robert Thomas, vice president of the Harford County school board, said he has never heard anyone complain about teacher dress.
“I’ve toured dozens of schools, elementary, middle and high, at all times of the year, and I’ve never seen anything that was inappropriate,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Baltimore City schools, where Fulton got the idea for a required dress code, said his bill would have little effect.
“We do not have an official dress code for the system, we leave the responsibility to principals and supervisors,” said Vanessa Pyatt, who said the city school system is not opposed to Fulton’s bill.
Fulton agreed the problem is not widespread, and that the bill would only apply to a small number of teachers.
“This is not a condemnation of teachers in this state, only the minority who exhibit outrageous dress behavior,” Fulton said.
The bill would let local school boards set their own standards.
“Let the locals deal with it, because they know better than I,” he said.
But Fulton said he has an idea of what he would like to see.
“No tattered clothing, a tie, no run-over tennis shoes, a button-up shirt,” he said.
“I’m not expecting them to come to school in $500 suit … but maybe a $15 pair of slacks and some loafers. That’s all we’re asking for.”