Outrage over school formal dress code

Elise Solé

School formals are pretty much the biggest social event on the calendar for many high school students.

As we all know, in the US, it’s known as ‘prom’, but one school in Hawaii is facing serious backlash from its students after publishing a list of prom dress code rules that ban girls from showing ‘excessive cleavage’.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Kauai High School dress code also reportedly bans: slits on the backs of dresses that expose the upper thighs, backless dresses that fall below the mid-back (under the bra strap), dresses with cut-outs that expose bare skin and off-the-shoulder dresses.

Students are protesting the dress code with a Change.org petition. Photo: Change.org

These elements are very common in many of the dresses sold in popular malls, and to protest the ban, students have banded together to form a Change.org petition called “Change the restrictions on prom dress codes for Kauai High School” which claims the dress code is “discriminating and insulting to girls.”

The petition, launched by student Annie Funaki of Lawai, states: “The facts are this is 2018, where we are told to be confident in our body, but then you create these restrictions that discriminate us and hyper-sexualise us to the point that we cannot feel comfortable without the assumption that we are being ‘provocative.’

“This dress code fits more of highly conservative standards than a school dress code.”

Supporters of the petition, which has already garnered more than 400 signatures, responded in kind, with one asking; “Why should we be told that we have to hide our bodies because they’re sexual when they’re not?”

Another school copped backlash last year for this dress code.
These were all unacceptable.

“People shouldn’t be thinking of them like that in the first place. If you’re worried about boys getting too excited over seeing a girl’s shoulders, you should be teaching them some self-control.”

Another person wrote: “There is no situation in which anyone should be told what they can and cannot especially in the situation where women clothing controls the concentration of men and women.”

“Teach the behaviour you want to see instead of oppressing an entire gender. Men [can focus] with a shoulder showing.”

The petition is addressed to the school’s principal Anne Kane, and neither she or the petition’s author responded to Yahoo’s request for comment.

This teen was forced to cover up with a shawl when she wore this to her prom in 2013. Photo: Fox News
The neckline was deemed to revealing. Photo: Fox News

Prom and formal season has always exposed fundamental flaws in school dress codes due to more emphasis placed on girls’ attire and the potential to discriminate based on physicality.

For example, in March, the Boylan Catholic High School in Illinois, released a 19-page now-deleted document called “Proper dress and dance policy” which, according to the New York Post stated, “[Dress necklines] must be cut in a modest way without showing cleavage” and any cuts in the back or sides “must not be cut below the navel (below your elbow).”

The guide also printed a series of photos exemplifying what not to wear, including strapless or wrap dresses.

US student Alexus Miller-Wigfall was suspended for her 'revealing' prom dress in 2015. Photo: Alicia Sneed
Teens heading to their school formal in the UK. Photo: Twitter/@eleanorclrke

The school also took no measures to conceal its body-shaming message: “Some girls may wear the same dress, but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not,” read the guide.

Per the Post, school president Amy Ott explained, “You have to try a dress on and see what it looks like on you, not how it looks on someone else…

“It’s like shopping for any other kind of clothing in this day and age. You want to look your best and look appropriate.”

Teen Brittany Minder was prevented from entering her 2013 prom at Central Kitsap High School in Washington unless she draped a shawl over her strapless gown.  

“In my opinion, I feel that it is because I’m bigger chested and there is more cleavage that you can see, and there’s nothing I could really do about that,” she told local news station KATU 2. 

Minder stayed at prom for only an hour, then left.  “I felt self-conscious and they took the magic out of the night,” she told the news station. “It was tough being there after all that happened. I didn’t feel comfortable. I already had a blow to my self-esteem. I didn’t really want to be there anymore.”

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