Texas High School Implements a Controversial Dress Code for Parents

New rules banning parents from wearing certain items have been called "discriminatory" and "classist."

Students at school
Photo: GagliardiPhotography/Shutterstock

April 24, 2019

School dress codes usually just apply to students and faculty, but one Texas high school is enforcing a set of rules for parents, too.

Carlotta Outley Brown, the principal of James Madison High School in Houston, announced the guidelines in a letter to parents and guests published to the school's website on April 9. She said enforcing a dress code for parents would help show their kids what constitutes "appropriate attire" for "outside of the home setting," but some members of the community find the guidelines problematic and discriminatory.

So what exactly are moms, dads, grandparents, and grownup visitors at James Madison High School not allowed to wear? The list includes: satin caps, bonnets, and shower caps, hair rollers, pajamas, as well as "any other attire that could possibly be pajamas, underwear, or home setting wear," jeans "that are torn from your buttocks" or "showing lots of skin," leggings "that are showing your bottom," "very low cut" and "revealing" tops, "Daisy dukes and low rider shorts," and the list goes on.

If a parent or guest comes to the school wearing one of these prohibited items or "any attire that is totally unacceptable for the school setting," they won't be allowed inside "until [they] return appropriately dressed for the school setting."

In her letter, Mrs. Outley Brown explained these "high standards" for parental attire are essential because, "You are your child's first teacher."

"We are preparing your child for a prosperous future," she wrote. "We want them to know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for any setting they may be in. This is a professional educational environment where we are teaching out children what is right and what is correct or not correct."

But not everyone thinks James Madison High School should be the deciding factor on this. Tomiko Miller, the mother of a Madison High School student, told the Houston Chronicle she was "almost insulted" by Mrs. Outley Brown's memo.

"I really think it was discriminatory, the language that was used," she said. "It was demeaning. And I'm African American—and if it's misty outside and I have a hair bonnet on, I don't see how that's anyone's business."

Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, called the guidelines relating to women's hair "classist," "belittling," and "dismissive."

"I'm sorry—this principal may have plenty of money and time to go to the hairdresser weekly and have her stuff done," he said, per the publication. "Who are you to judge others who may not have the same opportunities that you do? Having a wrap on your head is not offensive. It should not be controversial."

Parents.com reached out to Mrs. Outley Brown for further comment but did not receive an immediate response.

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