Prom Dress-Code Change Sparks Outcry at Connecticut High School

Students say specific guidelines about attire were not laid out in time.

May 12, 2015, 10:46 AM

— -- Prom season is big business, with the average family spending more than an estimated $900 on the big dance.

The hottest looks in Hollywood are often the most popular prom dress trends, too.

“Some of the hottest trends right now [are] lots of skin, backless, strapless, high slits, very provocative,” Yahoo Style contributing editor June Ambrose told ABC News.

But while those dresses are in on the red carpet, they’re out at one prom in Connecticut, sparking an outcry from students and their families.

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On May 8, administrators at Shelton High School in Shelton, Connecticut, announced a ban on dresses showing too much skin, saying they’ve already identified half a dozen dress “don’ts.” The prom is Saturday.

“Two piece outfits, in which the midriff is exposed, are not appropriate,” the school’s expectations stated. “One piece dresses, in which there is no back or with side cuts-outs are not appropriate. I encourage any student who may have any doubt that your dress is not appropriate to show a picture to one of the housemasters or me before next Friday. Be proactive and allow yourself time to rectify any issues, prior to 6:00 next Saturday night. As with all of our dances and stated on your signed contract, ‘Students dressed inappropriately will not be allowed into the dance and there will be no refund.’”

Junior Danielle Rieder’s dress is one of those that didn’t make the cut. “Tears welled up into my eyes and it was pure frustration and anger,” the student said.

Danielle’s mom, Fran Rieder, says she spent $350 dollars on her daughter’s dress and an additional $50 for alterations.

“We can’t get another dress because not everybody can afford two prom dresses,” Fran Rieder explained.

Administrators say the school policy has always banned inappropriate attire. “What we’re talking about here is what is good judgment,” Freeman Burr, the Shelton Public Schools Superintendent, said.

But students say what that specifically meant was never laid out prior to the May 8 announcement. Now they’ve launched a petition, writing, “Depriving them of this special night is heinous when they weren’t given a fair chance to get proper attire.”

In regard to the controversy leading up to the school’s May 16 prom, Burr released a statement reading, “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. Recently however, some students began sharing photos of their prom dresses, to administrators and staff, in which a handful were considered, inappropriate, too revealing and overexposed. That is when the decision was made by the Headmaster to recently reiterate the appropriate dress guidelines.

At this point, we are aware of six or seven dresses that have been deemed, inappropriate. However, there will still be an opportunity for those students who want to appeal that, to do so on Monday.

Students also have the option; should they have any questions to have their dresses looked by an advisory committee made up of female staff within the school district and the headmaster. Some students and in some cases, parents have utilized that option.

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, due to the fact that in years past, some very questionable dresses were worn by a few to prom. We don't want to turn anyone away at the door, from what we want to be a safe memorable evening for everyone.”

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