Houston High School Issues Offensive Dress Code for Parents

Nicole Rojas SAVE THIS

A high school in Houston issued a new dress code for parents, which many have criticized as discriminatory toward women, particularly women of color.

The new parental dress code bans satin caps or bonnets, hair rollers, pajamas, leggings, low cut tops, Daisy Dukes or short shorts, and revealing dresses. The letter to parents warned that if parents break the dress code, they will not be allowed inside the school until they return “appropriately dressed.”

In a memo to parents, James Madison High School Principal Carlotta Outley Brown said she would enforce guidelines on a daily basis. “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,” Brown wrote. “We are preparing our children for the future and it begins here.”

The Houston Independent School District declined to comment on the new dress code. In an email to The North Star, Brown said the new dress code, which was prompted by three separate incidents, was not discriminatory. She said that the letter never specifically mentions race, color or creed.

Brown described incidents in which parents visited school wearing see-through shirts, low-rise jeans, and rollers in their hair. One of the parents, who had her hair in rollers and “a rag” on her hair was wearing a see-through nightshirt, Brown claimed. The principal said she had young men to worry about.

“It was becoming too much,” Brown told The North Star. “I have to stand for my children because they are our future. We have to have standards; high standards. I am an alumnus of Madison and my children deserve the very best.”

Some parents said they had issues with the language used in the dress code.

“I’m almost insulted,” Tomiko Miller, a mother of a Madison High School student, told The Houston Chronicle. “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.”

Fellow parent Dora Breeding told KHOU that the dress code was “ridiculous.”

“We are an adult and we are taxpaying adults and we shouldn’t be told what to do or what not to wear,” Breeding told the TV station. “We are not the students, we are the parents.”

According to The Houston Chronicle, the parent dress code was issued a day after a parent claimed she was turned away from enrolling her daughter at Madison High School because of what she was wearing. Joselyn Lewis told KPRC-TV that administrators turned her away because she was wearing a headscarf and a T-shirt dress of Marilyn Monroe.

At first, Lewis thought she was being mistaken for a student, but the administrator told her she was not allowed on school property because she was breaking with the dress code. Lewis told KPRC-TV she became upset and demanded to see the “parent dress code.”

“I wanted to see proof of where it says parents can come dressed a certain way, but it wouldn’t show me that,” she said. “I wouldn’t leave, so they called the police department. They called them on me and I guess he was coming to tell me to leave, but I was already on the phone with the school board.”

Lewis added that her child’s education, and that of other students, should be more important than what parents are wearing.

The dress code was posted on the school’s website the day after KPRC-TV’s report.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.


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  • jbranic1

    I agree with this. I have seen they way some parents dress going to their kids school, it is very disrespectful to themselves and to their children. Parents should be properly dressed when entering the school building, why not? It is also embarrassing to a child when their parent dresses inappropriately with revealing tight clothes, I saw a little boy, very upset trying to cover his moms rear because she had on tight spandex at the bus stop and people were looking at her. Every morning I see parents at the bus stop looking like they just got out of bed. How are the children going to learn how to dress and carry themselves in public places, by following their parents lead.

    • Laurie

      This comment either earns you an, “I’m racist” badge, or an, “I didn’t read it before I agreed with it, which also makes me a racist since the headline that I’m agreeing with flags it as racist” badge. Which is it?

    • Jody Kay

      I agree too. Except for leggings. I wear them every single Winter’s day.
      I think that’s a bit to far.
      All the rest, I’m not sure moms would dress like that. I’d be embarrassed if my mom had come to school dressed like that.

  • mitchwalkerla

    This has to be reconsidered somewhat. A bonnet? C’mon. But see through shirts and short shorts? What are those parents thinking?

  • Larry Cooper

    This is asinine, the school official has no authority to prevent a parent from entering if their clothing is legal in public.

  • thaag

    As a School Social Worker, I have attended countless meetings where teachers and administrators are frustrated at the lack of parental involvement. Many of these parents had horrible experiences in school when they were young, and these powerful negative associations of being treated badly by authority figures makes them reluctant to re-enter school spaces. I can only imagine how difficult it will be to engage parents once they’ve been turned away from the school (or even had the police called on them) simply for how they’re dressed. If the school doesn’t want students exposed to the manner of dress of a parent, then they can quickly escort that parent to a private meeting space without insulting the parent. As a nation, we are focused on the wrong things. We chastise kids and parents for the way they dress, but fail to chastise ourselves for not fully funding public education, providing culturally sensitive and inclusive curriculum, or fair discipline practices. If we could provide engaging, empowering education in all schools, I think the ripple effects of respecting oneself would follow.

    • Tiff

      I agree with everything you said. I do think people should use discretion when going to a school, but there are far more important things to be concerned with than what parents are wearing.

  • MomJ

    I really feel that telling people what they can and cannot wear should not ever – ever! – be the duty of the government agent.

  • veganyogini

    Just another case of policing women’s bodies. It even feels more disgusting when it’s woman-on-woman crimes. Shame on Principal Brown.

  • kelly.wilbur

    It seems to me that how one dresses should be a personal choice, not something dictated by the organization whose duty it is to educate your child. Focus on teaching. How dumb is it to allow liberty to erode over something so petty?

  • Saya

    This ruling is full of racist, classist and sexist judgement. If this is how people dress, this is how they dress. Someone mentioned protecting kids from embarrassment (as justification) kids are embarrassed by anything at certain ages; i was embarrassed if my mom wore the wrong kind of winter hat when she picked me up at school. It also feels like an attempt to make it harder for these parents to be involved in their kids lives unless they conform to some standard. There are no laws about how to dress in public. Why so hung up on appearances ?

  • marciawilcox1

    Brown’s statement that see-through shirts pose a danger to male students raises that old trope that males are helpless slaves to their sexual desires, and that it is women’s responsibility to not provoke them to lust. How about teaching boys to keep their eyes and minds where they belong while at school? If they’re ogling moms, they’re ogling their female classmates as well. That’s the real problem.
    As for headscarves, do-rags and the like, why in the world is that a problem??
    I have attended college classes regularly in pajama pants, as did scores of classmates, both male and female. We are just as educated today as we would have been wearing business attire.
    The whole thing is ridiculous.

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