Houston High School Issues Offensive Dress Code for Parents

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.