A Dress Code for … Parents?

I firmly believe that all of my sons’ future neurosises will come from years of chaos during the hours of 6AM-8AM.

I’m not sure what happens in your house, but mornings in our house go something like this:

Stumble out of bed — to find that I’m out of coffee.

Stuff a chocolate chip Cliff Bar into my mouth.

Find the least wrinkled pair of pants and shirt get put on.

Oh god … they’re up! Quick!

Make breakfast – microwave pancakes and a pop tart.

Wait, you don’t want blueberry?

You want strawberry?

Time to get dressed — here’s your clothes!

(Leave the room honestly believing that when I come back they’ll be ready.)

Five minutes later — still naked.

They haven’t touched their food.

I take a deep breath.

That’s a lie, I’ve already stopped breathing.

“LET”S GO!!!”

Time for aggressive maneuvers.

I tackle one kid and start whipping clothes on, while simultaneously threatening the other with no TV for a week. He doesn’t care. I dress him next.

Tossing the moist delicious pop tart in my mouth, I get the kids in the car, and race across town to school.

No, I don’t want to hear a joke yet! We don’t have time! Ok, let’s play mime!

No one ever wants to play mime. There are jokes and questions. Requests to turn around to get a toy. Tears — for all three of us.

Twenty minutes later we arrive at school.

Did I even comb my own hair? It’s all a blur.

Does this sound familiar?

Our scramble to get to school on time and in one piece is not unique. As parents, we’re all just doing our best to get to school on time, and scar them as little as possible before heading off to work or to bed after working the overnight shift.

So imagine being a Houston parent where now James Madison High School principal Carlotta Outley Brown now believes it’s her right to institute a new dress code for parents who are failing to meet her fashion standards — while conditions inside “her building” continue to deteriorate.

That’s right. A dress code for PARENTS. Grown adults.

Now in order to even entertain the idea of all of this, one must first suspend disbelief over the ability of a high school principal to restrict the attire of grown adults over which she holds no authority. This one is RIPE for a lawsuit and I’m looking forward to watching Principal Brown and her dress code being laughed out of court.

Brown says all this is an effort to “prepare[e] our children for the future”, and to that end, has decided that no one can enter the school or be on its premises if they are wearing the following:

Anyone else picking up on Principal Brown’s slight obsession with a certain part of the anatomy?

Of course now this policy gained national attention after a mother attempted to enroll her daughter at Madison High School was asked to leave, because she was wearing a “T-shirt dress and headscarf”.

The school then had the police remove her from the grounds after she asked to see the dress code in writing.

In complete contrast with the last paragraph in Brown’s memo:

Parents, we do value you as a partner in your child’s education. You are your child’s first teacher.

However, please know we have to have standards, most of all we must have high standards.

We are preparing your child for a prosperous future. We want them to know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for any setting they may be in. This is a professional educational environment where we are teaching our children what is right and what is correct or not correct.

We value you but we must ask you to value and follow the rules of the school environment . . .

Thanks for understanding and being a partner in your child’s/children’s education. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Madison HIgh School is 98.1% African American and Hispanic, so obviously this policy is set to specifically target families of color.

“I’m almost insulted,” said Tomiko Miller, the mother of a Madison High School student, to 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.”

And even the teachers union is disgusted. Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, called codes relating to women’s hair “classist,” “belittling” and “dismissive.”

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

Now while Principal Brown is policing the parking lot for parent appropriateness, she’s also bringing in a BELLY DANCER for … professional development?

Appropriate, Principal Brown?

Meantime, conditions for students inside Madison High School seem to be falling apart. According to the numbers from the Texas Tribune:

And last week — students were attacked by school security triggering a student walkout:


The bottom line is this: While Madison High School performs in the bottom half of schools, Brown is more concerned with the appearance of parents who are trying to provide their children with an education, make ends meet, and trying to do their best.

We think they have bigger fish to fry.

Creating a further rift between parents and schools is not going to help lift student achievement at Madison and that’s the real crisis — not Principal Brown’s fantasy of creating a  daily community fashion show.

If wearing a ball gown every morning to drop off my kids at school would guarantee them the highest quality education — I’d find a way to incorporate it into my routine and make it happen — just like any other parent. Unfortunately, the solution is more about making sure we get our kids in front of the highest quality educators that really makes the difference.

It’s much easier to blame parents and economic conditions for a lack of student achievement than confronting issues inside your own building. And frankly, the excuses about parents and poverty just don’t stand up in the face of data that shows us that children from every race or socio-economic condition ARE capable of learning with the right educational environment.

Brown’s actions are just another example of the gap between educators and families — where parents are nothing more than “THESE PEOPLE” and students are “THESE KIDS” to be dealt with.

Parents and students aren’t here to serve Principal Brown and her demands — her job is to work in service to the community created by families in the city of Houston.

What do you think?

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