For juniors and seniors in high school, prom is one of the most anticipated events of the school year. And one of the most exciting parts of going to prom is dressing up — whether you buy a glamorous get-up or make an inventive outfit that sends a message. But at some schools, strict dress codes mean that students don’t always get to wear what they want to prom. And at one school in Michigan, girls whose dresses are deemed inappropriate will have to wear “modesty ponchos” for the rest of the night.
According to Fox 2 Detroit, Divine Child High School in Dearborn, Michigan, is displaying the swaths of fabric on mannequins with a note attached explaining the “modesty ponchos” policy in preparation for prom on May 12th.
“If your dress does not meet our formal dance dress requirements — no problem! We’ve got you covered — literally,” the note stated. “This is our Modesty Poncho, which you’ll be given at the door. :)”
The Associated Press reports that one of the Catholic high school’s teachers, Mary Pat O’Malley, originally came up with the idea, intending it to be “lighthearted” and a way to “focus on inner beauty.”
But some students saw the policy as unfair. One anonymous student told Fox 2 that she felt the school had “gone too far” and explained that girls’ dresses would be judged as they entered the school on prom night.
Today, May 1st, in response to the backlash surrounding the ponchos, the principal of Divine Child, Eric Haley, sent an email to parents saying that the modesty ponchos will not actually be passed out at prom.
Regardless of the intentions behind the “modesty ponchos,” it’s worth noting that dress codes are often used to single out female students (and more often than not, female students of color are punished). When students are pulled out of class and shamed for not wearing a bra or exposing their shoulders, it teaches them that their bodies are distractions. We need to stop policing girls’ bodies. But in the meantime, we hope that all students headed to prom are able to enjoy their nights — no matter what they wear.