Is a teacher legally allowed to call a student a judgemental name because of the clothes the student is wearing?

Expert Answers
engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to most educators' codes of ethics, name-calling of students is considered unprofessional at least, and a terminable offense at the worst, meaning it can get a teacher fired. However, legally speaking, a teacher can "label" a student in certain ways that fall outside the realm of religion, race, lifestyle, or socioeconomic status. As an example, if a student comes into class with their pants too low and the teacher calls the child a "plumber," referring to the pants' exposure of the buttocks, then that label is legally defensible, although inappropriate. However, if the teacher in question labels a female student a "slut" for wearing clothing that exposes too much anatomy, that incident then falls into the realm of sexual harassment or even slander. This question also hinges upon state laws governing educator standards. You may wish to check your local laws regarding this matter.

prospero eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While it is likely against school policies, and may cost this teacher his or her job, it is not likely ILLEGAL (meaning against the law) for the teacher to have called a student a judgmental name.  The first amendment to the US Constitution protects our right to free speech.  It does not however, require our employers to put up with our bad choices in what we say.

Now, if it is a public school (state sanctioned), then the teacher may not make any discriminatory statements based upon race, creed, religion, national origin, etc.  That would in fact likely be illegal.  I am interested in specifically what this teacher said in order to provide further thoughts here.


cburr eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I couldn't agree more that teacher bullying is unprofessional, unproductive and contrary to any definition of teacher ethics.  However, I don't think it's possible to make a sweeping statement that it is illegal.

Unfortunately I'm unable to find the exact state of the case law on this subject, but there appears to be little that would support a legal claim here.  Only about 15 states have anti-bulling laws, and most of those are directed at student-to-student bullying.

It certainly would be possible to come up with some reasonable arguments that a court SHOULD find teacher bullying illegal, but I don't think this has been established.

msald | Student

No a teacher is not legally allowed to do this to a student. This type of behavior is called teacher bullying and is unacceptable in the field of education. Calling a student a judgmental name because of his/her clothing can cause emotional distress as well as humiliation. Teachers are to be professional at all times and uphold the provisions mandated in the No Child Left Behind Act which holds us accountable for the education and well-being of students under our supervision. Therefore, a teacher cannot legally deface a student's character. I have included two websites that you can visit below that will provide an in-depth explanation of teacher bullying. by teachers.htm