Houston High School Slammed for New 'Anti-Black' Parents' Dress Code

James Madison High School is about to impose a new dress code for parents. It followed a visit from a mother wearing a pink bonnet and flip-flops requesting to enroll her child. 

Joselyn Lewis was turned away when she attempted to enroll her daughter at the Houston, Texas high school earlier this month. She arrived wearing slippers, a bonnet, and a short t-shirt dress.

Rejected for her appearance

At first, Lewis believed that the administrator had mistaken her for a student, only to find out that there was another explanation. 

She explained that the administrator, "went on to say that she still couldn’t let me on the premises because I was not in dress code and I still didn’t understand what that meant. She said that my headscarf was out of dress code and my dress was too short.”

New rules

Starting in May, the school will require parents to abide by a new dress code which the school's principal Carlotta Outley Brown put in place. The rules disallow satin scarves, caps, pajamas, low-cut tops, leggings, ripped jeans, and hair rollers from being worn on campus. 

A letter from Brown read: 

"We are prepping your child for a prosperous future. We want them to know what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate for any setting. This is a professional education environment where we’re teaching our children what’s right … and what’s correct or not correct.”

 Angry reaction from parents, students, and activists

Although Brown is an African-American woman, people still deemed the move as one reflecting discrimination against the minority race. Speaking to KHOU 11, some parents voiced their concerns. 

Dora Breeding said: 

“I think it’s ridiculous! We are an adult and we are taxpaying adults and we shouldn’t be told what to do or what not to wear. We are not the students we are the parents.”

Te'varrius Stephens, a senior attending the school, stated: 

“Nobody’s coming up here in no outrageous things. Nobody coming up in here with no bathing suits, they don’t come in here with their body out."

LeslieMac, reform activists, also weighed in on the matter via Twitter: 

“On today, a high school in Houston, TX set this dress code for PARENS. 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 …”

Positive reactions 

On the other hand, there were some in full support of the new code based on the comments in KHOU 11's Facebook post about the matter. 

"This is great and should be mandated for all schools!” said one. “Why do you have to ‘tell’ anyone that?? Someone has to have some sense," another said. 

What about the men? 

The codes cover a range of prohibited clothing, and some have noticed that most are applicable to women. As a result, many call the rules sexist. The most relevant rule for men might be "no sagging pants."

Yvonne Taylor, a former English teacher of the Houston Independent School District, put it this way: 

“It mentions sagging pants, and so on, but is primarily directed at mothers. And no, I don’t want to see parents dressed like that at school, but to bar them is so frigging inappropriate and condescending.”

Cancer student prohibited from wearing a wig

As this high school focuses on parents, there was another school which made a controversial move against a student who wore a wig due to her cancer battle. 

Kate Pepper, 17, was faced with the disease for the second time in September 2018. She experienced similar challenges including hair loss as a result.

In order to counter the situation, Pepper and her mother went wig shopping and purchased a piece she liked. However, upon arrival at school, she was told that wigs were banned and against the dress code. 

Thanks to her appeal and her story going viral, Pepper was given an exception to the rule. The teenager said she was relieved by the end result and prayed that her story helped others in the same situation.

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