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School's Dress Code Policy For Parents Wearing Bonnets and Headscarves Is Being Criticized For Discrimination

Click2Houston // @bajanpatrick/Twitter

James Madison High School, a public school of about 1,600 students in Houston, Texas has come under fire after the mother of a high school student claimed she could not register her daughter for class because of what she, the mother, was wearing.


The school notified parents of these policy changes in a letter dated April 9, which, as The New York Times pointed out, prohibits:

...revealing and sagging clothing for all people visiting the school, as well as pajamas, hair rollers and satin caps and bonnets, which are often worn by black women to protect their hair.

That notice came just a day after Joselyn Lewis arrived at the school to enroll her daughter while wearing a T-shirt dress of Marilyn Monroe and a head scarf.

Lewis says an administrator would not allow her on the property:

"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. She said that my head scarf was out of dress code and my dress was too short."

Lewis said she un-enrolled her 15-year-old daughter from Lamar High School due to bullying and intended to enroll her at Madison the day of the incident, which occurred shortly after she decided to not to wear her hair out because she was having it done:

"When I went to Lamar, I had no problems, but when I got to Madison High School, they refused me access to the premises because of what I had on. I mean, I didn't understand why my headscarf and my dress would conflict with me enrolling someone in school."
"I'm not saying that it's a part of my religion, but it could have been, but I just wanted to have it up. Who are you to say that I can't wear my hair up? In a scarf? Who are you to tell me how to dress?"

Adding to the controversy?

When Lewis asked to see the dress code, the administrator could not provide it.

The school even called the police department:

"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."

As far as Lewis is concerned, the policy should not have a bearing over her daughter's education:

I can wear what I want to wear. I don't have to get all dolled up to enroll her to school. My child's education, anyone's child's education should be more important than what someone has on, that shouldn't matter."

Here's a copy of the dress code issued the day after Lewis was barred from enrolling her daughter in school:

houstonisd.org

Lewis's story has already sparked a backlash against the school online.





Some agree with the policy, though.



Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, told CNN the policy "seems a little classist":

"Having body parts exposed is one thing. Turning someone away because their hair's in rollers ... is a little ridiculous. This is an issue of a principal issuing a dictatorial edict rather than having substantive conversation."

James Madison High School has not responded to requests for comment.