Ordinarily, it’s the students who complain about school dress codes.
As WJHL reports, a state representative from Tennessee has proposed a code of conduct for public schools, including guidelines for appropriate dress. But this dress code wouldn’t apply to students. It would be for parents and other visitors to the school.
Rep. Antonio Parkinson is a Democrat who represents a district in Memphis. He told Today that the idea was born out of complaints he heard from school principals:
“A principal I talked to told me a lady came into the office with her sleepwear on with some of her body parts hanging out. You got children coming down the hall in a line and they can possibly see this.”
And while the mom who wore lingerie into the office might have been the worst offender, she wasn’t alone. Parkinson added that he’d collected a number of horror stories about adults dressing inappropriately while visiting school grounds:
“People wearing next to nothing. People wearing shirts or tattoos with expletives. People coming onto a school campus and cursing the principal or the teacher out. These things happen regularly.”
That’s why Parkinson has introduced a bill intended to restore a minimum standard of decorum for school campuses.
Though each district would be allowed to set its own policy, Parkinson hopes that it will encourage adults to set a better example. He told Today:
“Whether you’re there to work, whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a vendor, a visitor, a speaker — anyone who steps on a school campus should be held to a basic minimum expectation of conduct and behavior. That includes how one dresses.”
Speaking to WREG, Parkinson clarified that this doesn’t mean that adults have to wear formal clothing — it’s more about avoiding inappropriate garb:
“I visualize clothes that are not sexually suggestive. Not wearing things that might encourage or suggest gang activity.”
Parkinson’s proposal has received some criticism. One state representative told WJHL, “In a day and age when teachers, administrators, and principals are begging for parental involvement, it could be an impediment to that.”
And some parents bristle at the idea of a dress code for adults. “If the kid is fed and cared for and loved and taken care of, who cares how their parents dress?” asked Cecilia Batson, a Tennessee mom. Batson told Today that she thought the bill was a waste of time given the state’s other education issues:
“Are we really going to get on parents for their clothes? We can’t even give our kids a decent education, but we’re going to tell parents what they can and can’t wear?”
However, Parkinson’s bill also has support from school administrators and parents who agree that adult standards have slipped.
“Things have gotten out of hand,” Tamara Cranford, a mom from Memphis, told Today. “The men don’t pull their pants up. They’re wearing shirts with inappropriate lingo on it. Things you don’t want a child seeing it.”
Cranford believes the inappropriate clothing sets a bad example for children, especially because it doesn’t take much to make yourself presentable for school. She told Today that all she wants is for parents to wear a jacket over an inappropriate t-shirt and not show up in sleepwear:
“It’s not about parents having to wear a suit or a dress or having to look corporate and ‘work ready.’ It’s just about civil decency.”
Parkinson says that he’s aware of the criticism, but that most of the feedback he has received has been positive. He told WJHL that the purpose of his bill is to make schools better:
“This is about making sure that our children have an environment that is conducive only to learning.”