New policy changing teachers attire

Riley Newell, News Editor

In September the Puyallup School Board enacted policy 5650, which was about ‘Employee Dress and Freedom of Expression.’ 

The Puyallup School District Executive Director of Communications and Public Engagement, Sarah Gillispie said the policy changed because teachers are representatives and role models, and they should wear clothes that reflect that.  

“The policy was changed to incorporate a ‘viewpoint neutral’ stance for employees as it relates to dress and attire, speech and display of personal property in district facilities,” Gillispie said. “District employees, volunteers and substitutes serve as role models for students and representatives of the district.” 

Gillispie says that this policy will help create a better environment for everybody. 

“The Puyallup School District is committed to creating inclusive environments for students and families, staff and employees. We believe this policy helps advance and operationalize our commitment to inclusive environments,” Gillispie said. 

Social Studies teacher Mychal Limric says there is a difference in roles students and teachers have on campus.  

“The thing that teachers are that student aren’t is [teachers are] employees. Your employer can pretty much tell you to do anything as long as it’s not illegal,” Limric said. 

Limric also says there many occupations and jobs have dress policies in place. 

“You can’t be an airline pilot and show up in shorts and no shirt and fly the plane because you’re going to get fired because people will look at you and think that you’re not serious because you’re walking into the cockpit with shorts and no shirts,” Limric said. “I think the dress code for adults is different than a dress code for students.”  

English teacher, Monique Russ, says teachers shouldn’t use their power of authority to persuade students that their views are the correct ones.  

“I don’t believe we should influence students to have one opinion or another because I believe that they should come up with it on their own,” Russ said. “This is a public institution that’s paid for by public dollars.” 

Because of the nature of public schools, Russ says, teachers have responsibilities that extend beyond their classrooms. 

“We have rights and responsibilities to the public, to the parents, to the administrator to do our best to an unbiased approach to teaching. We’re not always going to be able to do that because we’re human by our very nature, we are biased people, but we have to do the best we can to keep as much of it out of the classroom as possible,” Russ said.  

The Puyallup Education Association President, Bob Horton said that if teachers’ rights aren’t violated that [the policy] could be deemed constitutional.  

“The whole thing is because it’s kind of very touchy, everything has a political viewpoint to it. I don’t want [the policy] to violate teacher rights. As long as it doesn’t violate our district nondiscrimination statement, then everything should be okay. [Partisan politics is] what they’re really trying to keep out of the classroom,” Horton said.