One high school in Houston is facing criticism after approving a dress code for not just students, but for their parents.
Carlotta Outley Brown, James Madison High School principal, issued a letter to both parents and guests of the school on April 9 — banning items like satin caps, shower caps, bonnets, hair rollers as well as revealing jeans and shirts form school ground.
“To prepare our children and let them know daily, the appropriate attire they are supposed to wear when entering a building, going somewhere, applying for a job, or visiting someone outside of the home setting, I am going to enforce these guidelines on a daily basis at Madison High School,” wrote Brown. “We are preparing our children for the future and it begins here.”
The letter goes on to detail the items Brown believes to be unacceptable, including: “pajamas of any kind”; “jeans that are torn from your buttocks (behind)”; “leggings that are showing your bottom”; “very low-cut tops or revealing tops that [reveal] your busts (breasts)”; “sagging pants, shorts [and] jeans”; “short shorts that are up to your behind”; “Daisy Dukes and low rider shorts”; and “dresses that are up to your behind.”
The letter also shared how “men wearing undershirts will NOT be permitted in the building.”
“Please know that if you break our school rules/policies or do not follow one of these rules, you will not be permitted inside the school until you return appropriately dressed for the school setting,” the principal wrote.
“Parents, we do value you as a partner in your child’s education. You are your child’s first teacher. However, please know we have to have standards, most of all we must have high standards.” Brown continued.
“We want [your children] to know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for any setting they may be in,” she wrote. “This is a professional educational environment where we are teaching our children what is right and what is correct or not correct.”
The letter is dated only one day after reports broke that a James Madison mother was not able to register her daughter for classes as she was wearing a short T-shirt dress.
Joselyn Lewis revealed to KPRC-TV how she was not allowed on the premises by an administrator as she was violating the dress code.
Lewis then explained to KPRC how she was up in the middle of getting her hair done so she decided to keep it up. And as her dress passed the finger-length test — she did not think it was an issue.
“[The administrator] said that my headscarf was out of dress code and my dress was too short,” she revealed to the outlet. “I can wear what I want to wear. I don’t have to get all dolled up to enroll her to school. My child’s education, anyone’s child’s education should be more important than what someone has on. That shouldn’t matter.”
President of the Houston Federation of Teachers, Zeph Capo, shared with the Houston Chronicle how he found codes discussing women’s hair “classist.”
“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. “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.”
The parents of James Madison students were upset with the dress codes as well. Rosemary Young said she was given a copy of the new rules when she arrived wearing a satin cap.
Young shared how she then headed to the school to pick up her son after her younger child broke his arm.
“It doesn’t matter how a parent should come,” she shared with KTRK-TV. “If we come here belligerent, out of control, things of that nature, that’s what you have the police for, but what I wear should never be an issue. I’m not revealing. I’m not doing anything. I don’t have any weapons.”
Tomiko Miller, another mother, said she was “almost insulted” by the code as if she felt it targeted African-American women.
“I really think it was discriminatory, the language that was used. It was demeaning,” she shared with the Chronicle. “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.”
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