Personal Appearance Courts have received considerable attention re: the dress & grooming of teachers

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Personal Appearance

  • Courts have received considerable attention re: the dress & grooming of teachers.

  • Proper dress & grooming promote:

  • -professional image for teachers

  • -good grooming among students

  • -aide in maintenance of respect &

  • decorum in the classroom

  • Teachers claim that staff dress code policies (wearing of “long” hair, sideburns/beard, tie & jacket, improper skirt length) invade their rights of privacy and liberty.

East Hartford Education Association v. Board of Education of Town of East Hartford


  • February 1972, East Hartford Board of Education adopted “Regulations for Teacher Dress” which required male teachers to wear a necktie.

  • Richard Brimley (English & filmmaking teacher) routinely wore a jacket & sport-shirt without a tie.

  • He was reprimanded because his refusal to wear a tie was in violation of the dress code policy.

  • He appealed to the principal & was told:

  • -wear a tie during English class

  • -wear informal attire during film-making

  • class

  • He then (unsuccessfully) appealed to the superintendent & the board before beginning formal arbitration proceedings which ended in a a decision that the dispute was not arbitrable.


  • Is refusal to comply with a district’s dress code policy considered “symbolic speech” & protected against governmental interference by the First Amendment?

  • Is it appropriate for the courts to become involved with local (trivial) affairs?


  • A school board may impose reasonable regulations governing the appearance of the teachers it employs (dress code was constitutional)

  • The board was justified imposing the regulation & that as public servants in a special position of trust, teachers may properly be subjected to many restrictions in their professional lives which would be invalid if generally applied.


  • The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was used to uphold the Board’s decision to impose the dress code policy.


  • The judges in this case had to re-define their role and defend their decision:

  • “our role is not to choose the better education policy. We may intervene in the decisions of school authorities only when it has been shown that they have strayed outside the area committed to their discretion.”

  • “Because teaching is by definition an expressive activity, virtually every decision made by school authorities would raise First Amendment issues calling for federal court intervention.”

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