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Tennessee Lawmaker Wants Dress Code in Schools... For Parents
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Photo: Woody Marshall / The Telegraph

Tennessee Lawmaker Wants Dress Code in Schools... For Parents

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A Tennessee lawmaker has come up with a new bill for school districts that envisions prohibiting “sexually suggestive” clothing. Not only would this code address behavior, it would also outline a dress code for parents while they’re on school campuses.

A school dress code for parents is being hotly debated in Tennessee after State Representative Antonio Parkinson (D) of Memphis – who has heard many complaints about some of the attire worn by guardians on school grounds – has drafted a bill that would require schools in the state to adopt dress codes for parents and other visitors to schools.

Parkinson said the dress code and code of conduct were inspired by parents themselves – as well as educators and principals – who expressed concern over the attire and behavior of visitors at some Tennessee schools. Parkinson told Yahoo Lifestyle that the policy would apply to anyone who steps foot on a school campus – and that includes students and faculty, who are already held to a high standard. He said he expects anyone stepping on school campuses to be held to that same standard.

Parkinson told Memphis’s WHBG that the misconduct can even create situations for children to be bullied, which is why one of the goals of the proposal is to send a positive message to kids and prevent bullying.

“We want to protect our children, but we also want to protect our staff,” he said. “And we want to protect the integrity of the institution.”

Some Facebook critics have already labeled it an example of unnecessary government interference, but Parkinson told the Daily Memphian and other news outlets that he has heard too many “horror stories” from school officials.

“We’re not trying to criminalize anyone...What we’re doing is educating and creating awareness,” he said.

Parkinson also called the dress code and code of conduct a precautionary measure against on-campus fighting and visitors showing up under the influence and dressed inappropriately. “I had one elementary school principal tell me about a parent coming to pick up their child with lingerie on and body parts hanging out,” he told Yahoo Lifestyle. He said another parent came to school smelling like marijuana and leaving the whole office reeking of it.

The lawmaker will not propose a one-size-fits-all policy, though – in fact, he doesn’t want to dictate the specifics of the policy at all (the only exceptions to that principle are “sexually suggestive” clothes and the things “that might encourage or suggest gang activity” that the representative does not “visualize.”)

If the bill passes, the onus will be on each school district to implement its own code of conduct for school visitors – then to post the code at every school entrance and hand it out to parents at the beginning of each school year.

“We’re not trying to tell anyone how they should dress in their lives,” he said, “But what we are saying is, ‘Here’s our minimum of what your appearance should be,’ just like you’d expect in a job interview.”

According to WREG, “the dress code would be part of a larger code of conduct that would ideally prevent parents and visitors from cursing, fighting, and showing up on campus drunk or high.”

However, former teacher and Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee J.C. Bowman says this could close the door on parent engagement.

“If you start putting in dress codes you’re gonna think, particularly low-income people, may feel like that they’re not dressed well enough to go to the classroom. They don’t want to embarrass their kids,” Bowman said.

Frank Barbieri, Palm Beach County board member, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “I think we’re moving in a terrible direction even talking about this. I’m sure what would happen if we tried to put a policy in place was that poor parents wouldn’t come at all out of fear they were dressed inappropriately.”

FOX 17 News talked to parents who think any type of dress code is overreach and unreasonable.

“Kids see their parents at home with God knows what on, so I don’t think that that has anything to do with anything,” mother Shay Odom said.

“I mean, no they shouldn’t wear or show up in like miniskirts, but you can’t tell me I can’t wear yoga pants, stuff like that,” mother Tabitha Baker-Bryant said.

However, Representative Parkinson says it’s not about telling parents what they can and can’t wear, it’s about setting a standard.

“What we’re trying to do is just make sure that our institutions of education are respected and that our children are protected,” Representative Parkinson said.

Parkinson’s suggestion echoes a similar plan imposed by the Rizvi Springfield School in Mumbai a few years back.

Proposals to implement dress codes for parents were rejected by two separate Florida school districts in 2014, after officials complained that parents were showing up on school grounds wearing such things as pajamas, skimpy shorts, or with their hair in curlers.

The new legislation received mixed responses on social media.

“About time,” one commenter said, agreeing with the dress code.

“A much needed policy!” another person, praising the rule, commented.

“It’s about disrespecting parents in front of their children,” one person replied in a long rant against the bill.

“With all the duties on the school, now they’re policing parents’ dress code? I think we have enough laws to lock us up,” another against the bill’s reach wrote.

Hundreds have reacted to the proposal on social media, offering a mix of support, criticism and disbelief that this is an issue.

“I think it’s sad that this has to be an issue,” wrote Amanda Hudson Metcalf on Facebook. “‘Adults’ should know that you don’t show up to your child’s school looking like you’re going out to a bar to hook up or like you just rolled out of bed.”

“That’s what we need, more government interference in people’s lives,” posted Ben Crowder. “If Sally’s mom wants to wear her PJ’s to school leave her alone.”

“As long as they are covered up, what does it matter what people wear,” wrote Donna Svedberg on Facebook. “Have they ever been to Walmart after midnight? They’d definitely be appalled.”

The bill is still in the drafting phase, but is expected to be introduced in as little as two weeks.

Author: USA Really