parent engagement

A Dress Code for Parents Has to Be at the Bottom of the List of Education Priorities

Some of these school administrators have their priorities messed up!

Just last week, two students were expelled from their Christian school 30 days before the end of the year because the pastor claimed their mother was living in sin and committing adultery—specifically, her daughters have two different fathers.


I’m not well versed in religious text so don’t get me quoting the Bible to defend why I think this expulsion is wrong. What the mother does in the privacy of her home is no business of the school, especially if it isn’t detrimental to the well-being of her daughters—but, taking away their education is. And if this is a strict policy of the school, why accept the girls in the first place?

But my biggest thing is, to be a Christian school, their actions don’t seem very Christlike in kicking these girls out because of something their mother did. I guess Pastor John Wilson didn’t even bother to ask himself “What would Jesus do?”


And this week, Carlotta Outley Brown, the principal of James Madison High School in Houston, has decided to enforce a dress code for parents.


Now the expulsion from the Christian school is completely absurd to me but, I understand Principal Brown’s madness. I also agree with what Jan Taylor says in her tweet about parents and educators being the example and setting standards for students.


But, this is where my empathy ends. Sis. Brown’s method, timing and priorities are all wrong. Most importantly, it reinforces an already glaring message that parents aren’t allowed in schools.

Let me talk to Principal Brown real quick.

Ma’am, you’re the fourth newly enacted principal—within a five-year period—at a school where the academic performance has been subpar.


Your student population is 99% Black and Latino, 75% low-income and in a non-White district—surely your school is one of the ones that receives $23 billion less in funding.

Your Black and Brown, low-income students are also subject to the belief gap and explicit bias. Did you happen to read TNTP’s Opportunity Myth report that confirms students of color are less likely to receive rigorous or grade-level coursework because of the color of their skin?


Madison students are walking out of class because of hostilities between students and school staff.

And finally, instead of promoting engagement and fostering relationships by meeting parents where they are, you’ve angered, isolated and made it that much more difficult for students’ teachers to connect with them. It sends a message to the parents that they aren’t allowed in your school and exacerbates the struggle of parent-school collaboration, ultimately weakening student support systems.


All of these battles you could’ve chosen to fight but you’re focused on how parents dress? It’s a disservice to the students and families.


I don’t know what you’ve accomplished in your career or at this school thus far but I hope that from this point on, you choose your battles wisely.

Because at a time when data validates something we’ve already known—that the struggle for Black and Brown and low-income students in schools is real—we need you to work diligently to alleviate some of those struggles. We need you to prioritize the needs of students and work with parents to accommodate them. And finally, we need you to not fan the flame of division within the Black community with policies that have stereotypical, discriminatory and racist undertones.

Tanesha Peeples
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and ...

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