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No shower caps, pajamas or bonnets: Texas school imposes dress code — on parents

Mother Joselyn Lewis of Houston, Texas, said James Madison High School turned her away as she tried registering her daughter for school because of what she was wearing, KPRC reports.
Mother Joselyn Lewis of Houston, Texas, said James Madison High School turned her away as she tried registering her daughter for school because of what she was wearing, KPRC reports. Screen grab from KPRC

The principal of a high school in Houston, Texas, is facing criticism after imposing a dress code on parents who visit campus and threatening to kick out any parent who violates it.

James Madison High School has prohibited an extensive list of clothes, including bonnets, satin caps, shower caps, hair rollers, “pajamas of any kind,” jeans “showing lots of skin,” revealing leggings and tops, Daisy Duke shorts, undershirts and “dresses that are up to your behind.”

Principal Carlotta Outley Brown wrote in a message to parents earlier this month 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.”

Outley Brown wrote that “we do value you as a partner in your child’s education,” but said “we have to have standards.” Outley Brown graduated from the high school herself in 1979, according to the school’s website.

Earlier this month, KPRC reported that a mother trying to enroll her daughter at the high school was turned away because of what she was wearing: a T-shirt dress with Marilyn Monroe’s face on it and a headscarf.

“I can wear what I want to wear. I don’t have to get all dolled up to enroll her to school,” said Joselyn Lewis, the parent, according to the TV station. “My child’s education, anyone’s child’s education, should be more important than what someone has on, that shouldn’t matter.”

Lewis told KPRC that she asked to see the parental dress code at the school.

“I wanted to see proof of where it says parents can come dressed a certain way, but (they) 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.”

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KPRC’s story about Lewis’ incident at the high school was posted on April 8. Outley Brown’s message explaining the school’s dress code was dated April 9.

Other parents criticized the dress code as well, the Houston Chronicle reports.

“I’m almost insulted,” said parent Tomiko Miller, according to the newspaper. “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.”

Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo described the rules that addressed hair as “classist” and “belittling,” according to the Chronicle.

“I’m sorry — this principal may have plenty of money and time to go to the hairdresser weekly and have her stuff done,” Capo said, according to the paper. “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.”

One parent said she was handed a copy of the dress code by the school after she wore a satin cap while rushing to pick up her child during a family emergency, KTRK reports.

“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,” said the parent, Rosemary Young, according to the TV station. “I’m not revealing. I’m not doing anything. I don’t have any weapons.”

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