After administrators addressed a prom dress code controversy at Shelton High School in Shelton, Connecticut on Monday, an advisory committee reviewed 19 prom dresses before school Tuesday and identified a seven of them as inappropriate.
Students plan on circulating a petition complaining about what they deemed as last-minute changes to the dress code for prom, raising concerns about little time to get a new dress and money wasted on non-refundable dresses.
Dr. Beth Smith, the school's headmaster, announced over the intercom Friday that backless dresses and those with slits or cutouts wouldn't be allowed at prom this coming weekend.
Six of the seven dresses deemed inappropriate out of the 19 reviewed Tuesday were previously determined by the administration to be in violation of the prom dress code and one of them was featured on broadcast news Monday night, according to Laura Udice, a public relations coordinator speaking on behalf of the school. School officials contacted all of the students whose dresses were under review. Two of the girls with dresses flagged told officials they have already arranged for different dresses. Another student is having a tailor add more material to fit the criteria.
Concerned students and parents said the crackdown comes too late because prom is days away and they've already spent money on their dresses.
"If she had a problem with this, she should have addressed it two or three months ago, not a week before," said Shelton parent Leisha Verdi.
Supt. Freeman Burr said the student handbook, which all students receive at the beginning of the school year, outlines the guidelines for appropriate dress.
"Those guidelines were announced over the PA system, again, last Friday following concerns raised by some faculty and staff, and even some of our male students, who had some serious concerns about some of the prom dresses that were being shown," Burr said.
He went on to say school officials understand that prom attire differs from school attire, but administrators want only prom attire that is considered appropriate.
"We want all students attending the prom on Saturday evening to have a memorable night," Burr said. "We know that all of our students want a great prom. We want all of our young female students to be dressed beautifully. Obviously, we want them to enjoy themselves. However, we also want them to be dressed appropriately – appropriately with class and dignity, and also dressed in a tasteful way."
The superintendent said earlier that officials would review the decision about dresses deemed inappropriate and determine whether to allow those students to wear them with alterations.
School leaders said last Friday's announcement was a reminder of a long-standing prom policy. However, students said the guidelines are new to them.
"Everybody was like freaking out in my class," said Samantha Bucherati, a senior whose dress was ruled inappropriate. Bucherati described Smith as "more strict" and said her message about prom attire is "just out of control."
Students said they planned to circulate a petition, calling on school leaders to relax the guidelines. They argue that limiting what female students can wear is unfair and a selective enforcement of the dress code.
School officials are meeting after school to review other dresses.