P O W A Y, Calif., May 2, 2002 -- Parents at a California high school are in an uproar amid allegations the female assistant principal lifted the skirts of girls attending a dance to make sure the students were not wearing thong underwear.
Rita Wilson, the assistant principal at Rancho Bernardo High School, has been placed on administrative leave Wednesday while the school district investigates the allegations, school officials said.
Female students said Wilson immediately asked girls who arrived at last Friday's dance, "What kind of underwear do you have on?" The students said Wilson and a female counselor lined the girls up outside the dance and started an underwear check. The girls said Wilson lifted their dresses, revealing what they had on underneath.
‘Violated and Embarrassed’
Stephanie Stewart, a student who was turned away due to her choice of underwear style, said girls wearing thongs were sent home — but not before some of the male students saw the underwear check.
"We were in front of the entire class, school officials were around, and even two on-campus cops," she told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.
Stewart's mother, Cindy Stewart, said she was in a state of disbelief when her daughter, who is involved in student government, told her what happened.
"She felt very violated and embarrassed on a night that should have been enjoyable for the kids," Mrs. Stewart said.
Stephanie Stewart said the high school has a dress code, but there are no restrictions pertaining to underwear in it. Her mother said she could understand that a principal takes measures that will keep students safe, but she doesn't understand why the student's underwear style would make a difference.
"Had the kids been asked to go through metal detectors or had bars run over their bodies, or had their purses checked, we would have been all for that," said Cindy Stewart.
But underwear checks are a different matter, she said. "The fact that she [Wilson] chose kids wearing dresses and deemed them basically unworthy to go into the dance because they were wearing thong underwear is incredible."
Parents Want Principal Out
Wilson, who has been assistant principal since 1997, has has made no public comment.
Don Phillips, superintendent of the Poway Unified School District, tried to calm parents who were calling for Wilson to be fired. Holding an inquiry into the issue is a top priority, he said.
"As a parent myself, I certainly understand the concern theseallegations have raised," Phillips said in a statement. If theallegations are true, he said, Wilson's actions "were clearlyoutside our school district's policies and procedures."
School officials continued to interview students and staff todetermine what happened at the casual "MORP" dance, which stands forprom spelled backward. About 725 students attended.