Parents with students at a Houston high school are speaking out after the principal implemented a strict new dress code that forbids parents from wearing specific clothes or hair accessories.
Earlier this month, Carlotta Outley Brown, principal of James Madison High School, issued a letter to parents saying items such as satin caps, hair rollers, sagging pants, undershirts worn as shirts and short dresses would no longer be allowed at the school or at school events held off-campus.
The policy was implemented after a student’s mother wasn’t allowed to enroll her daughter in classes because she arrived in a headscarf and T-shirt dress, reported Click2Houston.
According to Brown’s letter, the dress code was created so students understand “the appropriate attire they are supposed to wear when entering a building, going somewhere, applying for a job, or visiting someone outside of setting. ... We are preparing our children for the future and it begins here.”
Brown explicitly stated that any person who breaks the dress code "will not be permitted inside the school until you return appropriately dressed for the school’s setting.”
Although Brown is African-American, many people believe the policy unfairly targets minority students at the school, which is 58% Hispanic and 40% African-American, according to the Houston Independent School District.
Rosemary Young, a parent of one the school’s students, said she recently wore her satin bonnet when she rushed to the school when her child broke an arm. As soon as she arrived the school, Young was handed a copy of the dress code, reported ABC 13.
“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,” Young told ABC 13.
Tomiko Miller, another parent at the school, told the Houston Chronicle that the dress code seemed “discriminatory.”
“I really think it was discriminatory, the language that was used. 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,” Miller told the Houston Chronicle.
With almost three-quarters of the students eligible for reduced-price or free lunches, many of the parents at the school are low-income.
Although the dress code appears aimed at Black women, it also has classist implications.
Ashton Woods, candidate for Houston City Council and founder of Black Lives Matter Houston, tweeted in response to the code, “This is ELITISM and RESPECTABILITY POLITICS. ... Most of the parents likely cannot afford to comply with this dress code. This is not 1984.”
Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo also found the rules regarding satin bonnets and hair rollers to be “belittling,” “classist” 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 told the Houston Chronicle. “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.”
Although the Houston Independent School District has not yet commented on the dress code, people on Twitter did not hold back from debating the policy.
(Photo: ABC 13 Houston)