After securing a date (or deciding to go stag) and buying a $70 to 100 ticket, the young women who wished to attend Eisenhower High School’s prom were to submit a photograph of their dress—on their actual body—for approval. This screening process was meant to save them from heartache the night of the prom. As per prom policy at the Houston-area school, and several other schools, anyone who shows up to the dance wearing something “inappropriate” runs the risk of being sent away at the door.
But several days of finger-wagging headlines and what must have been significant outrage from the students and parents of Eisenhower eventually pressured the school into dropping the pre-approval policy. In light of how problematic the entire process was, this is probably for the best. While the mandates and guidelines for what can and can’t be worn to a school-sponsored event seem reasonable—no “exposed midriffs or cleavage, low backdrop dresses, short dresses or bikini tops”—it’s quite another matter to require seventeen- and eighteen-year-old girls to send photographs of themselves in formal wear and await approval.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, the policy was dropped an hour after a reporter reached out to Aldine ISD for comment. Eisenhower’s principal, Ben Ibarra, explained why the process was adopted in the first place:
“The school has had issues in the past with girls showing up in inappropriate dresses despite guidelines being issued and the parent and student signing. Students were turned away at the door and parents were very angry,” he said. “Therefore, the process of pre-approval was put in place.”
For starters, this whole thing sounds like a logistical nightmare. On the student side, requiring each dress be photographed for approval while actually wearing the garment makes the policy difficult for anyone who prefers to shop online. It also means if that students who miss the mark must make multiple trips to whatever department store or boutique (or wherever kids these days are shopping for formal wear), a frustrating and time-consuming experience.
Where things got really thorny is on the receiving end of all these photos. According to data provided by the Texas Tribune, the average class size at Eisenhower is about 600 to 700 students. Add in dates who are invited from other schools, and someone has hundreds of photographs to screen and approve between now and May 15, the night of the school prom.
In a public school the size of Eisenhower, who has the time to review all those prom dress selfies? According to what Ibarra told the Chronicle, “two senior class women representatives would review the photos” as they were provided. To clarify: two senior girls were to be in charge of telling every other female attendant of the prom what they could or could not wear to the dance. While the two representatives could certainly be very thoughtul and mature young adults, there is something slightly off-putting about allowing two fellow students have ultimate veto power over what their peers can and cannot wear.
Of course, as the proverbial cherry on top of this teen crisis sundae, there’s the usual question of, “Hey, might it be a bit unfair to only make girls participate in the screening process?” As per Eisenhower prom policy, men are required to wear tuxedos or suits to the soiree. So unless a wild teen decides to let Chippendales inspire his prom outfit, it’s unlikely anyone in male attire will be turned away, forlorn and dejected, at the door.
And yet, there’s still something that’s just a bit over-the-top about making teen girls send in photographs of themselves modeling both the front and back of their potential gowns. Snapping photos of the dress on the hanger or sending in a link to an online store of a model wearing it, while still ridiculous, would have eliminated the risk of body-shaming a girl for how her figure looks in a certain styles.
In the wake of all this prom drama, lawyers have given some thought as to whether or not this could have resulted in a lawsuit for Eisenhower High. While courts tend to rule on the side of the school in dress code v. freedom of speech issues, the unofficial ruling in this case, based on the photograph evidence and “peer on peer” review process, is probably, yes.
But for now, the whole issue has been sidestepped. And maybe the threat of having to send dress selfies to their peers has scared the women who plan on attending Eisenhower prom into purchasing modest, provincial ball gowns for this year’s dance. Besides, isn’t it all about After Prom anyways?
Photo courtesy of ThinkStock.