Carlotta Outley Brown, a high school principal in Texas, has implemented a new dress code — not for students or school staff but for parents who come into the school. The controversial decision came after she allegedly did not let a parent enroll her child because she was wearing a headscarf and short dress.
On April 8, Joselyn Lewis went to James Madison High School in Houston, Texas to register her daughter for class while wearing a T-shirt dress and a headscarf. However, she was turned away by a school official. She initially thought she was mistaken for a student but even when she explained that she’s a parent, she still wasn’t allowed to enter.
“She 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,” Lewis told KPRC. “She said that my headscarf was out of dress code and my dress was too short.”
Disappointed, she asked to see the parent dress code. She said, “I wanted to see proof of where it says parents can come dressed a certain way, but it wouldn’t show me that. 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.”
The next day, Principal Carlotta Outley Brown sent a letter to parents containing a list of dress code policies. Banned clothing includes bonnets, shower caps, hair rollers, sagging pants, and pajamas.
“Parents, we do value you as a partner in your child’s education,” Brown, who is an African American, wrote in the letter. “However, please know we have to have standards, most of all we must have high standards.”
Parents and activists are saying the new rules are discriminatory.
“I’m almost insulted,” Tomiko Miller, a student’s mother, 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.”
Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, called the dress code “classist.”
“Who are you to judge others who may not have the same opportunities that you do?” Capo said. “Having a wrap on your head is not offensive.”
Meanwhile, Brown stood her ground and said the dress code for parents was necessary because the school “is a professional place, where learning is taking place. A hair bonnet is permissible in the home, with your family. It’s not permissible in the school setting,” she told Inside Edition when asked specifically about hair bonnets.
“We have to have high expectations for all,” she continued. “The students are looking at us.”