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Education Expert Says Schools That Reward Teachers With ‘Jeans Passes’ Are Manipulative & Insulting

Photo: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock
teacher in classroom wearing jeans

If you ever spot a teacher wearing jeans to work, they may just be cashing in a "reward" from their bosses. 

Educators have started speaking out against 'jeans passes,' labeling them as 'insulting' and 'manipulative' toward teachers. 

So-called "jeans passes" are granted to teachers by their bosses in some school districts. They allow educators to wear jeans to work in exchange for certain favors or for fulfilling specific requirements. 

Some teachers may gladly step up to complete certain tasks if it means they get to swap out their polyester pants for a comfortable pair of jeans. However, most argue that wearing the most comfortable pants should be a right, not an earned privilege.  

Education Expert Explains How Jeans Passes Are Manipulative And Insulting Photo: Elena Nichizhenova / Shutterstock

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Justin Baeder, an education philosopher and author, took to TikTok to explain why jeans passes are used as a manipulation tactic against teachers, and how they “infantilize” educators. 

“I got a message from a teacher in a school where the principal is constantly sending out emails about how you can earn a jeans pass as a reward for doing something,” Baeder said. 

Whether it’s helping out around the school or staying late to get more work done, some teachers will do more than what is required of them just to have the opportunity to their favored pants to work. However, Beader highlighted that this is an example of poor leadership

   

   

“This is not what instructional leadership should look like,” he insisted. “The idea that the privilege of wearing jeans should be restricted artificially so that it can be rolled out as a reward … how insulting is that? How infantilizing is that to teachers to say, ‘It’s okay for you to do this. It’s okay for you to wear jeans, but only if I say so.’” 

Beader also noted that it is manipulative to make employees jump through hoops to obtain their bosses’ permission on what to wear. 

While he understands that some employees are forbidden from wearing jeans to work, particularly if they are in a more formal setting, they should not have to work for a “pass” to be able to wear them. 

“If it’s okay with a pass, then it’s okay without a pass. It just doesn’t make any sense,” Baeder added. 

He urged school supervisors not to bribe their staff with “dumb things” to get them to do what they want. 

“[Jeans passes] treat teachers not as professionals, but as children who need little rewards like privileges that they should kind of have anyway,” Baeder said. 

   

   

“I think this approach to recognizing and rewarding teachers, the intention comes from a good place, but it’s misguided in the sense that it could never recover that sense of professionalism that teachers need to have,” he continued 

He argued that we need to do away with jeans passes and start treating teachers like the professional adults they are, who can make their own judgments on what is appropriate to wear to work.

“We have to treat people like adults if we want people to do professional work,” Beader concluded. 

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Others echoed Beader’s opinions regarding jeans passes, believing that they should not exist in the first place. 

Many online insisted that if school supervisors want to incentivize teachers to do more work, they should reward them with a higher salary — not allowing them to certain clothes. 

   

   

“After years of Jean passes and Jean Fridays, I work at a school that allows jeans," one commenter shared. "I think the difference is trusting adults to look professional with jeans and then speak to those that are abusing it.”

“Meanwhile, my kids come to school in pajama pants and slippers,” another user pointed out. 

Jeans are an appropriate attire that allows teachers flexibility, comfort, and the ability to express their personal style while still maintaining professionalism. 

Luckily, it appears as if more and more school districts are realizing that. According to a LinkedIn poll, 46% of more than 2,200 respondents claimed that their school or district has allowed for a more relaxed dress code following the pandemic.

As long as a teacher’s attire is not inappropriate and does not affect their ability to educate students, their district should not have a say in the pants they choose to wear.

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.