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A middle school has drawn criticism from parents for a homecoming celebration that encouraged students to dress based on their relationship status.
Iowa Middle School and Iowa High School in Louisiana dubbed Monday "Stoplight Day," an optional theme in which students could wear green if they're single, red if they're "taken," and yellow if their status is "complicated."
M.J. Mouton, a parent with a daughter at the middle school, called the day "totally inappropriate" in a tweet that has been retweeted more than 20,000 times.
"Kids should be kids,'' Mouton told NBC affiliate KPLC. "Sure, some middle school kids are going to have boyfriends and girlfriends and crushes, but I don’t think we need the school to play matchmaker for a 10 to 14-year-old."
"Middle school, to me, that’s kind of young, and they really don’t know anything about relationships and stuff,'' Doneka Dugas, who has a son in the high school, told KPLC. "So I don’t think my child would’ve done it if he were in middle school."
The theme sent a negative message, said Michelle Icard, the author of “Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years."
"This was just a huge mess,'' Icard told TODAY Parents. "They could've created a day that allowed kids to show who they really are in a way that expresses their individuality, which is something kids that age are really starting to explore, instead of expressing whether they belong to someone or not."
Making middle school students openly display their relationship status also could lead to bullying.
"I think it would be really humiliating to the kid who longs to be in a relationship or who was rejected by someone else,'' Icard said. "To have to broadcast that is strange."
It's not clear who exactly came up with the idea. The Calcasieu Parish School Board, which oversees the schools, did not respond to request for comment from TODAY.
"It feels like whoever made this decision doesn't have a very good understanding, developmentally, of what kids are doing in middle school,'' Icard said. "What they're supposed to be doing is figuring out their unique identity in the world.
"Who am I away from my parents, who am I as an individual? And this spirit day seemed all about, 'Who are you with?'''