Shelton High students write petition against prom dress code

SHELTON, Conn. (WTNH) — A few Shelton High School students have gotten together and written a petition to fight what many students say is a last-minute dress code for next weekend’s prom.

They say the principal announced Friday morning that backless dresses, cut-outs, and two-piece outfits in which the midriff is exposed wouldn’t be allowed. The school’s headmaster says she reiterated the dress code after some students began sharing photos of their prom dresses, and administrators and staff felt some were inappropriate.

ORIGINAL STORY: Prom dress code shocks Shelton High School students

“Those attending next weekend’s Junior/Senior prom have been made aware of what has been deemed ‘appropriate’ dress, which is included in the student handbook that is provided at the beginning of each school year,” Shelton Superintendent Freeman Burr said in a statement Friday.

The students say neither the student handbook nor prom contract explain what is considered appropriate for prom. They plan to circulate the petition in school Monday, then deliver it to the board of education and Headmaster Beth Smith.

Full Petition:

To the Board of Education and all Shelton High administrators,

As you are likely well aware, the recent announcement of the prom dress code has sparked much anger, upset, and controversy. We would like to address this unfair and sexist policy as well the overall dress code policy of Shelton High School. As the people who must live under these rules, we students should have some say in what we are able to wear.

Friday (May 8th) morning our headmaster, Dr. Smith, announced what would be considered inappropriate attire for the upcoming prom. Dismayed, many girls, who had been shopping and planning for months, were informed for the first time that their pricey and, in many cases, nonrefundable dressed would not be allowed. Superintendent Freeman Burr claimed that ‘We made sure that guidelines were set well in advance of this event, so that both students and their parents were aware of our expectations’. However neither the student handbook, prom contract, nor prom tickets stated what would and wouldn’t be considered appropriate attire. Eight days before the prom was the first time students were clearly told what they could wear. The student hand book states the following on the topic of prom:

‘Students must be in attendance the entire school day the Friday immediately prior to the prom in order to attend the prom. All students attending the prom must complete a prom contract. All dues and outstanding obligations must be paid in order to attend the prom. The administration reserves the right to keep students who are not in good standing from attending the prom. Additional regulations will be cited in the prom contract.’

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No outlines were given in the handbook on appropriate prom attire, and the section on ‘Behavior at school activities/dances’ offered no guidelines on appropriate attire. And the prom contract gives only a vague policy on prom attire ‘Appropriate formal dress and behavior are expected. Students dressed inappropriately will not be allowed into the dance and there will be no refund.’ A similar message can be found on the prom tickets. It takes a long time to pick out a dress or have one custom made, even longer for any necessary alterations to be made; it is unfair to release the dress guidelines eight days before the dance and expect every person to have a dress that follows them. If the school is to enforce a new dress policy, they cannot announce it just before the biggest dance of the year.

Announced along with the prom dress policy was a reminder that with the arrival of warmer weather girls need to be mindful that they do not wear too revealing clothing. These policies about short shorts, miniskirts, spaghetti straps, ect. And the regulations on prom dress both stem from the same problem in our schools and our society. There is a sexist and backwards logic that girls must cover up so that boys are not distracted or tempted to behave inappropriately. If a girl wears a pair of shorts and a boy takes that as an invitation to touch her, who really needs to be told to control themselves? Don’t teach girls to hide their bodies; teach boys self control and that they aren’t entitled to a girl’s body just because she dressed in a way that made her feel beautiful or just didn’t want to get overheated. And in a time when so many young girls struggle with body image should we not encourage them to be comfortable enough in their own skin to allow people to see it? Please do not mistake this as a plea for there to be no restrictions or regulations on what students can wear. Having a dress code is perfectly fine so long as it is in place for legitimate reasons and it is equally enforced on all students. There is no reason one girl should wear skirt that is deemed too short and she is removed from class and made to wait for her parent to bring a change of clothes (wasting precious instruction time for this student), but a cheerleader can wear a skirt of the same length or shorter all day without being bothered about it. There is no reason why a boy should be able to sag is pants well below the waist but a girl will be shamed if her shorts show the slightest bit of her buttock. There is no reason why the boys at Mr. Student Body should have been allowed to parade around the stage in nothing but their boxers but a girl can’t wear a backless dress to prom. This selective enforcement of school dress code is unacceptable.

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We would like to once again reiterate that this is not an outrageous request for a complete lack of a dress code in the school. Not wanting clothing that depicts drugs or gang symbols is perfectly acceptable. Not wanting spiked or chained accessories that could be a safety hazard is perfectly acceptable. Not wanting students to wear overly exposing clothing is perfectly acceptable. The dress code could be fair and just so long as two things were done. The first is to ensure that all the rules are evenly enforced on all students. Administrators should not be biased or selective when enforcing these rules. The second is to be reasonable. Just look at any summer fashion magazine for girls, any junior’s summer clothes department, any dress shop intended for prom dresses. You’ll see how hard pressed a girl is to find long enough shorts and skirts or a dress that wont show too much skin nowadays. You also can’t expect students to not wear more breathable and skin exposing clothing as the weather heats up. Spring and summer have been getting hotter and hotter in recent years. If you don’t believe it just look at the facts ‘March 2015 was the warmest March since record-keeping began in 1880,’ says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And ‘the first quarter of 2015 was the warmest first quarter on record in those same 136 years….hottest year on record — which was 2014…. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 17 years'(CNN.com). The world is changing and the dress code should adapt to fit it.

As the students of Shelton Public School, we want our voices heard on this prom controversy and the dress code as a whole. The students were not properly informed on what could and couldn’t be worn to prom. That shouldn’t mean they don’t get to enjoy one of the biggest nights of their school lives. These girls should be able to wear their dresses regardless of whether they follow these newly announced regulations. If you really can’t tolerate these styles of dresses then set up an official school dance attire policy at the start of next year so that all students have a fair chance to buy outfits according to the rules. Just allow these dresses this year, the girls weren’t told they couldn’t wear them until it was eight days before the prom. Depriving them of this special night is heinous when they weren’t given a fair chance to get proper attire.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and we hope you will consider all that has been said when making decisions regarding this prom catastrophe and all matters regarding dress code.

Written by,
The Croffy/Smith Siblings

Signed,
The Students of Shelton High School

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