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I currently live in Japan and teach English conversation as a side job for additional income.

I have a (very attractive) female student in one of my classes that likes to dress in rather revealing attire, even in the winter. I'm not particularly fond of female students wearing revealing clothes, as I find it annoying to have to use extra energy to keep myself from unconsciously ogling them, even if for just a second too long.

After a while I had the feeling that she was purposefully displaying herself, such as undoing too many buttons on her shirt or keeping her chair unnecessarily pulled back away from the table so that her bare legs are in full view from where I'm standing, but I assumed I was just over-interpreting the situation, being the human male that I am, and she was just dressing how she likes.

However, through conversations with other teachers who also had her in their classes, I learned that she never dresses or behaves in that fashion. I also substituted for them a few times, and in all of those classes she was dressed in more appropriate attire.

I spoke to the director of my school, but the response I got was that as long as the student doesn't actually try to do anything to cause problems, there was nothing that could be done.

Now, I don't know why she dresses like that only in my class. Perhaps she has a job on that day that requires her to dress like that, or she likes to go out to the clubs after class. I have absolutely zero evidence that it has anything to do with me, but now that I know this behavior is specific to my class only, it's beginning to get on my nerves. I might be happy if I was single, but I am happily married and intend to keep it that way.

Edit: I neglected to mention that she repeatedly says "Teacher, you are cute!"(in Japanese" during class. My apologies.

My question: Would it be inappropriate for me to approach this student and ask her to dress more conservatively? I would strongly prefer not to be charged with sexual harassment.

UPDATE: One of the other students in this class took pity on me and gave me some information. 1. She works part time at night after the class which requires her to dress in revealing clothes. 2. She's noticed I actively avoid looking in her general direction except when I look her straight in the eyes, so she's trying to have some fun by being distracting. 3. She actually does think I'm kind of cute and has a slight crush, but nothing serious. It's a little bit of a hearsay because it's coming from a 3rd party, but I feel a bit relieved by having a general idea of what's going on. I'm just going to continue doing what I do since it shouldn't be getting any worse.

closed as off-topic by Snow, nvoigt, Thalantas, David K, Lilienthal Feb 17 '17 at 13:36

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Short answer: Yes, it would be entirely inappropriate for you to ask her to dress more conservatively, unless she is contravening university dress code rules.

If she is actively sexually harassing you, touching or speaking to you an a sexually suggestive way, then you can take some action. If she is sitting in the classroom wearing revealing clothing, then ignore her. If it is about you (and unless she is overt with you, there is no real evidence to suggest that it is), then after a while she'll get bored and it will stop.

If you approach her, then you are very likely to either get hit with sexual harassment, or assuming that she is doing it for your benefit, then she may even escalate given that she is obviously getting to you.

So TLDR; ignore her unless it becomes reportable sexual harassment.

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    The university I work at actually does have dress codes for within the classrooms, but in this case it's a side job at a language school. She also keeps saying "Teacher, you are cute!"(in Japanese) during class which has me slightly concerned. I have never had this happen before during the 10+ years I've been teaching so I want to make sure I do this right. Sexual harassment lawsuit or escalation are both results I would like to avoid. So your advice would be to just deal with it until the situation either resolves itself or escalates to obviously inappropriate behavior? – Halfway Dillitante Feb 17 '17 at 4:02
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    Repeatedly saying "Teacher, you are cute!" is very different behaviour from how someone dresses. You should edit the question to include this - in fact, I'd say the question should focus on this, rather than the clothes. – Philip Kendall Feb 17 '17 at 8:01
  • @PhilipKendall You are right, that is relevant information. I should have included it in the first place. I've done so now. – Halfway Dillitante Feb 17 '17 at 16:15
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    @HalfwayDillitante You've still kept your core question ("Should I ask them to change how they dress?") the same. Changing how they dress won't stop them saying you're cute. – Philip Kendall Feb 17 '17 at 16:24
  • @PhilipKendall I'm trying to avoid posting chameleon questions. I have the information I need for the moment being, but if necessary in the future I may post a question more focused on the behavior. – Halfway Dillitante Feb 19 '17 at 1:22
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Would it be inappropriate for me to approach this student and ask her to dress more conservatively?

It appears you already have the answer, but don't seem to realize it:

I spoke to the director of my school, but the response I got was that as long as the student doesn't actually try to do anything to cause problems, there was nothing that could be done.

Your own "boss" has said it clearly that he doesn't see a problem. Trying to take the matter in your own hands because you find the school rules problematic won't do you any good. If you talk to the student, and she chooses to complain to the director, you will have a big egg on your face.

I totally understand that sexual harassment complaints are and should be taken more seriously than others, but even if there was no possibility of a sexual harassment case here, what you are contemplating doing is not advisable.

Just to demonstrate that point, consider another situation: "A student writes his test in red ink, while all the other students use either blue or black ink. The red ink strains my eyes, but the school director says there is no rule against using red ink. Should I ask the student to stop using red ink?"

If you feel strongly about it, you might consider choosing a job with another school which requires students to dress more "conservatively" (whatever that means to you).

  • Imo it would be completely reasonable to limit ink colors for assignments, even if there is no existing rule. So I don't think that's a good example to use. – Kat Feb 21 '17 at 16:55
  • @Kat It doesn't matter whether you and I find it reasonable. The point is that if it is not against the school rules, the professor should not be taking the matter into his own hands because he doesn't agree with the rules. I would actually argue that it is a better example, because nowadays people are hyper-sensitive to getting offended. Placing restrictions on ink colours can be coloured (uh, excuse the pun) in ways you cannot imagine. – Masked Man Feb 21 '17 at 17:06

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