HOUSTON – A high school English teacher accused school administrators of bullying and retaliation over her decision to wear medical scrubs at work.
“I wear scrubs and a scrub cap,” said Abarca, an English teacher at James Madison High School in southwest Houston.
Abarca has been wearing gowns to work since October 22. It also marked the day she said the school principal sent her home because she refused to change her clothes. Abarca said she wears medical scrubs as personal protective equipment, not only to protect her students but also her young children at home.
“I always wear my cap, but because it imitates or imitates a medical professional, I am not allowed to wear it,” she said, referring to the first disciplinary article she received at this subject.
A “note of concern,” dated October 22, warned Abarca, “scrub tops are approved for you to wear. It is a distraction for students and staff and inappropriate for your task.
It was OK for Abarca to wear a scrub top, but the pants and cap were in violation of the school dress code, the letter said.
“I was wearing jeans with my cap on and (the manager) was always writing to me, so I figured I would go in my full safety gear in what I feel comfortable and safe in,” said said Abarca.
The Madison High School principal and deputy principal wrote to Abarca for the said violation a total of six times, according to disciplinary documents obtained by KPRC 2. The most recent was on December 4, which also stipulated who decides on the dress code on campus. .
“It’s up to the supervisor to interpret what appropriate attire is on their campus,” according to disciplinary writing.
The Abarca dress code debate isn’t the first battle of its kind to brew on the Madison campus.
As KPRC 2 reported in April 2019, Principal Carlotta Outley Brown established a dress code for guests and parents, which prevented them from entering the building or being on school premises, while wearing a beanie or satin beanie on the head. The dress code stated that “shower caps” of any kind were not allowed and hair curlers were no longer allowed.
READ: Madison HS sets dress code for parents after KPRC2 report on mother’s outfit
Abarca filed a grievance against the disciplinary writings she received. She said she feared school administrators were working on her firing.
The Houston Teachers’ Federation agrees.
“HISD policy says that you must dress neatly and appropriately for your job. Principals are not the end of the line in the district. It would be the superintendent and the board, ”said Sonia Gonzales, lawyer with the Houston Federation of Teachers.
“Her manager in her opinion harassed her and retaliated against her for it,” Gonzales continued.
For her part, Abarca said she was initially reluctant to report her case.
“I filed this grievance because (the principal) refuses to listen or have compassion with the teachers or how they feel,” she said.
Abarca accused school administrators of creating a culture of fear that extends beyond his battle.
“It’s not just about me anymore. It’s about the staff and all of us safe, ”said Abarca.
HISD officials released the following statement about this story to KPRC 2:
“While the district cannot specifically comment on personnel matters, the district can confirm that it continues to take action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools. School campuses are stocked with PPE and other protective equipment, including masks, disinfectant and plexiglass. We also offer gowns and gloves for employees near students and on a case-by-case basis. Employees are required to wear appropriate attire for their particular duties. District security measures related to COVID-19 can be found in the HISD Communicable Disease Control Plan (CDP), particularly on pages 9 to 24. The Communicable Disease Committee meets regularly to discuss related issues. the district’s response to the pandemic.
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