Houston high school institutes dress code for parents

A Houston, Texas, high school is stirring controversy by implementing a new dress code...for parents. 

Carlotta Outley Brown, principal of James Madison High School, sent a notice home to parents earlier this month that prohibited them from showing up to school wearing pajamas, hair rollers, leggings and other clothing items, according to the Associated Press. The move is meant to force parents to set an example for their children, at least when it comes to attire. 

"No one can enter the building or be on the school premises wearing a satin cap or bonnet on their head for any reason," Outley Brown wrote in a letter dated April 9. "You also cannot wear a shower cap of any kind in the building." 

Madison High instituted the dress code after Houston's KPRC-TV reported that a parent who tried to enroll her child was turned away for wearing a headscarf and a T-shirt dress. Some parents and officials have since spoken out, calling the new policy prejudiced. 

"I really think it was discriminatory, the language that was used," Tomiko Miller, a parent of a Madison High student, told the Houston Chronicle. "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." 

Outley Brown, who herself is African American and a graduate of the high school, previously enacted a similar policy at Peck Elementary in downtown Houston, where she served as principal for 14 years, the Chronicle notes.

During Outley Brown's tenure, the school regularly met state academic standards and was even recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2008 — one of the highest honors bestowed by the U.S. Department of Education. In its profile of the elementary school, the department made references to Outley Brown's dress code. 

“Early in Principal Brown’s tenure, some parents showed up at school in inappropriately informal dress,” it stated. "She took these parents in hand and explained that they may not appear at school so dressed and firmly turned them away, as she did any parents using inappropriate language on school grounds.”

But critics have said that Outley Brown's new rules at Madison High reek of classism.

“I’m sorry — this principal may have plenty of money and time to go to the hairdresser weekly and have her stuff done,” Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, told the 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.”

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