Commentary: Parental dress codes overstep boundaries

Jocelyn Arceo, Editor in Chief

Carlotta Outley Brown, the principal of James Madison High School in Houston, Texas, has implemented a dress code policy for parents of enrolled students as of April 9.

The policy prohibits any parent on the premises from wearing clothing such as short shorts, leggings, hair rollers, bonnets, low-cut tops and short dresses. The letter sent out to parent’s states, “Please know that if you break our school rules/policies or do not follow one of these rules, you will not be permitted inside the school until you return appropriately dressed for the school setting.”

The students who attend the high school are required to wear uniforms, however, it is highly unlikely the parents ever thought they would be told what to wear, too.

Brown claims the policy has been put in place as a way to keep their standards high and because parents are their children’s first teacher, according to the letter.

The statement of keeping standards high implies that the parents who may not have time in the morning to take their hair rollers out or to put on more than a pair of leggings do not abide by high enough standards.

Not only are parents being told what to wear, but they are essentially being told they are not responsible enough to portray the proper standards to their children as well. Whether or not that was intent of Brown, the fact remains that parents are now under the impression that a public school believes they do not hold high enough standards for themselves.

Any grown adult would be outraged at the unnecessary policy, and the blatantly disrespectful reasoning behind it.

Unfortunately, another issue arises through the fact that all dress code policies are inherently sexist, with this policy being no exception.

The letter sent out to parents only provides one bullet point of 10 regarding what men are permitted to wear, stating “sagging pants, shorts, jeans, will not be permitted in the building or on the premises. Men wearing undershirts will NOT be permitted in the building.”

This is strikingly similar to dress code policies on various high school campuses, which tend to heavily focus on what female students are wearing compared to male students, an issue within academia that is now further branching out to the lives of adults.

Hearing of a parent dress code made my skin crawl as I reminisced over the copious amount of dress code violations I endured throughout my four long years of high school.

After dealing with restrictions on expression and comfort for nearly 13 years of following school policy, I cannot ever again allow another public school to restrict how I choose to express myself. This is exactly what parents at the Houston high school should be doing as well.

Adults who have done their time with school-sanctioned dress codes should not have to worry about going through it again as they try to provide their children with an education.

The choice to remove parents from the premises of the school simply for wearing leggings or an undershirt will only do further damage to the students than it will to anyone else.

Establishing professional dress codes within the work place is warranted, or within an organization, sure, but for parents simply picking up or dropping off their children at school? This policy is completely overstepping boundaries.

Jocelyn Arceo, a junior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at and on Twitter @jociefromulv.

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