A Houston high school’s strict new dress code, aimed at parents, continues to stir up controversy given its purported racial and class-related undertones.
James Madison High School has taken to banning, among other clothing and accessories: satin caps and hair rollers, sagging bottoms (jeans, shorts, etc.), and particularly short dresses or equally revealing items like Daisy Dukes from the campus and school events, even those off-campus. Men are also prohibited from wearing just undershirts on top.
Carlotta Outley Brown, the school’s principal, is behind the initiative. It was announced on the heels of an alleged incident wherein a student’s mother was turned away for arriving in a headscarf and “too short” T-shirt dress. The code was issued in a letter to parents earlier this month, the day following reports of the mother being turned away.
The code’s intent, according to Brown’s letter, is to let children know “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.”
Her conclusion led with an additional warning, set in boldface, saying that those who don’t adhere to the code “will not be permitted inside the school until you return appropriately dressed for the school’s setting.” The code applies to all school events, on and off-campus.
On today a high school in Houston, TX set this dress code for PARENTS. The other photo is the Principal who set the new rules. Reminder you can be Black and still create, write, enact & enforce anti-Black policies. nothing going wrong in that school has any connection to bonnets. pic.twitter.com/nHhChVp39f
— Leslie Mac (@LeslieMac) April 24, 2019
The school’s students are, according to the Houston Independent School District, widely comprised of Hispanic (58%) and African American (40%) students. Many of the students, about three-quarters to be exact, are eligible for reduced-price or free lunches.
Though Brown, a graduate of the school, is African-American herself, many people feel the dress code has racial undertones, according to an local ABC affiliate, KTRK.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to watch the following video. It’s not what you might be expecting.
A student’s mother, Rosemary Young, previously wore a satin cap in a rushed effort to get to the school after one of her children broke an arm. After being given a copy of the code upon arrival, Young maintains, “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.”
Tomiko Miller, whose child currently attends the school, echoed these sentiments, telling 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.”
Houston Federation of Teachers president, Zeph Capo deemed the guidelines citing women’s hair items “belittling,” “classist,” and “dismissive.” “Who are you to judge others who may not have the same opportunities that you do?” he maintained.
Ashton Woods, who founded Black Lives Matter Houston and is a candidate for Houston City Council, responded by tweeting, “This is ELITISM and RESPECTABILITY POLITICS. … Most of the parents likely cannot afford to comply with this dress code. This is not 1984.”
This is ELITISM and RESPECTABILITY POLITICS she should be fired. Most of the parents likely cannot afford to comply with this dress code. This is not 1984. https://t.co/7NlqEOF2Gy
— Ashton P. Woods (@AshtonPWoods) April 23, 2019
“The parents were coming in risqué clothes,” Brown told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday in defense of the guidelines.
HISD declined comment regarding the alleged racial and class-based biases.
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