Palm Beach schools say no to parent dress code

Parents are welcome to come as they are when they visit a Palm Beach County school.

The School Board will not pursue a dress code for parents suggested by Board member Karen Brill. Supporters of a dress code say too many parents were coming to school in pajamas, short shorts, sagging pants and hair curlers, setting a bad example for students.

But most School Board members said they have no interest in getting involved in this issue.

“I think we’re moving in a terrible direction even talking about this,” Board member Frank Barbieri said. “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.”


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Board member Jennifer Prior Brown agreed a policy was unnecessary.

“I’ve never heard that parental dress has interfered with teaching and learning,” she said. “Parents will talk about the way others are dressed at parent pickup, but that’s gossip. It’s not the role of the board to inject itself in this.”

The issue of the way South Florida parents dress attracted national attention recently after Broward School Board member Rosalind Osgood complained about parents showing up at school in slinky or sloppy attire. She said the clothing choices set a poor example and make it harder for schools to enforce student dress codes.

Broward School Board members resisted developing a policy but did encourage principals to talk to parents. Osgood plans to hold a parent forum on the issue in September.

Since the Sun Sentinel first reported Osgood's concerns in early April, she has been interviewed by MSNBC and mentioned on CNN, Good Morning America and numerous other news sites and blogs.

She said she's received a large number calls, emails and Twitter messages, both negative and positive.

Osgood said the issue may seem silly or minor to some, but a parent's dress can have serious consequences. She's known of kids who have been bullied and told their parent "looks like a hood rag."

She said the issue is particularly important to African Americans, who often have to deal with racial profiling.

"If I go into Macy's in the middle of the day in pajamas, people are going to follow me because they think I'm there to commit a crime," she said. "If I go in at the same time with a St. John suit, they're going to respond to me differently. We don't like to admit it, but our appearance really matters."

stravis@tribune.com or 561-243-6637 or 954-425-1421