Outrage was swift for one Houston high school principal who decided to implement a dress code for parents. Now that principal was defending her decision, which has been seen as yet another example of how society tries to police Black culture.
An April 9 letter that was sent home with James Madison High School’s 1,600 students went viral for all the wrong reasons. In the letter, which was crafted by the school’s Black principal, Carlotta Brown, parents are given strict guidelines for what they can and cannot wear when entering the school. Sagging pants, bonnets, rollers, crop tops, shorts, leggings that are not covered by long shirts and more are forbidden, according to the letter.
“You are your child’s first teacher,” Brown wrote. “We are preparing your child for a prosperous future,” she added. “We want them to know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for any setting they may be in.”
Brown’s letter was sent out the day after Joselyn Lewis, the mother of a high school student, went to Channel 2 News claiming she had been turned away from enrolling her daughter for class while wearing a t-shirt dress and head wrap.
“I can wear what I want to wear. I don’t have to get all dolled up to enroll her to school,” Lewis said. “My child’s education, anyone’s child’s education should be more important than what someone has on, that shouldn’t matter.”
Despite the backlash, Brown has held steadfast to her new policy. In an interview with Madd Hatta Morning Show, she claimed the dress code was in response to several incidents where she witnessed inappropriate attire, including seeing a woman’s breasts through her see-through shirt. Brown went on to say that the policy was in the best interest for her students’ futures.
“[My overall goal for my students is to] graduate with highest honors and let them have the opportunity to go to college and not be turned down,” Brown said on Monday. “And it starts with how we present ourselves.”
Brown said she received an email arguing that satin bonnets were a part of Black culture, but she strongly disagreed.
“It’s not a part of my culture. My family has never worn bonnets outside of the home and not even inside of the home,” Brown claimed. “The same type of aggressiveness that you’re apart of for this whole quest for the dress code, I need all parents to be like that for their child’s education.”
There have been controversies all around the country regarding Black people’s attire, which has lead many to believe there is a larger policing of Black culture, especially when it comes to education. Some students have been expelled or disciplined for wearing braids or African head wraps. In New Jersey a wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocs to compete.
In New York and California, legislation has had to be passed to prevent employers from discriminating against Black hair and it leaves one to ponder what that says about society at large. Though Brown is a Black woman, her dress code policy can be seen a reinforcement of the racism that Black people experience in this country.