High School Principal Stands by Creating Dress Code for Parents

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A Texas high school principal stands by her controversial decision to institute a campus dress code — for parents.

Carlotta Outley Brown, principal of James Madison High School in Houston, told Inside Edition that she feels it's important for parents to set a good precedent for their children.

"I felt the need to enact the dress code because it was an educational environment, a place of learning," said Brown. "When anyone walks in, we have impressionable children and we have to model what we want them to know and learn."

The controversy first arose earlier this month, when Brown sent a letter to parents warning them that they would not be allowed inside the school if they were not dressed appropriately. 

“We are preparing your child for a prosperous future,” Brown wrote. “We want them to know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for any setting they might be in.”

Among the articles banned? Hair bonnets, shower caps, hair rollers, low-cut tops and leggings, torn jeans that show too much skin and absolutely no Daisy Dukes. 

For men, sagging pants and tank tops are verboten. 

"Parents are their children's first teacher," Brown said. "They have to dress a certain way. It's not to prohibit them from their expression but it's to ensure that they know how to conduct themselves."

Brown said that in recent weeks, she'd witnessed several parents wearing what she called inappropriate clothing for a school. 

"A mother came in with a see-through shirt and you could clearly see her breasts and her nipples," said Brown. 

Another woman showed up with her thong sticking out of her pants, the principal added. 

The straw that broke the camel's back? A mother who wanted to enroll her child at the school showed up in a "nightshirt" with a scarf on her head, said Brown, adding that she had to turn the woman away at that time.

"You could clearly see that she did not have anything on under her garment," said Brown, who explained the scarf wasn't the issue. 

Brown emphasized that the rules do not apply to parents in the carpool lane dropping off and picking up their children, but rather only to those seeking to come into the school. 

Not all parents are on board with the new rules.

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 told the Houston Chronicle. "Having a wrap on your head is not offensive."

Asked specifically about hair bonnets, Brown said there's nothing "wrong" with them. "You would not wear that to church. If I could be very frank, many of the parents, if they were going out on the town at night, they would not wear a hair bonnet."

She continued: "This 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."

Brown, who said she had the same rules at the previous school she worked at, said she's received plenty of praise from across the country, reading from a binder of hundreds of emails she said she has been sent.

"I totally support you," one person wrote, Brown read. "... Stand your ground."

"I commend your courage in addressing this issue in your school," another said, according to Brown.

"We have to have high expectations for all," Brown said. "... The students are looking at us."


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