Divine Child High School in Dearborn, Michigan, has come under fire after photos of a “modesty poncho” the school designed and threatened to hand out to female students whose prom dresses were deemed inappropriate, went viral.
As Fox 2 News reports, students arrived at the private Catholic high school on Monday to find mannequins had been set up around the hallways wearing “modesty ponchos” with notes attached to them that read, “If your dress does not meet our formal dance dress requirements — no problem! We’ve got you covered — literally. This is our Modesty Poncho, which you’ll be given at the door. :)”
Students at a high school in Dearborn will be evaluated by teachers before prom. If their dresses aren’t appropriate, they’ll be given a Modesty Poncho:https://t.co/N0TGp5KJom pic.twitter.com/CuTW57M4ya
— FOX 2 Detroit (@FOX2News) April 30, 2018
Naturally, multiple students were less than thrilled, especially considering they and their parents were already required to sign agreements regarding the prom dress code.
“I do believe the school has gone too far with this,” one anonymous student told Fox 2. “As we walk into prom, we are to shake hands with all the teachers and if you walk through and a teacher deems your dress is inappropriate you will be given a poncho at the door.”
As Mahdi Charara, a senior at Divine Child told CNN, “The way they talked about it before is, if you show up in a dress not in line with what they say, you will have to put this poncho on,” he said. “There’s an idea that men have the right to impose their will, good or bad, modest or immodest, on women.”
The school’s theology teacher Mary Pat O’Malley was reportedly responsible for the idea. “We are trying focus on the inner beauty and not draw attention to something that doesn’t need attention drawn to it,” O’Malley told Fox 2. “It was really intended as a deterrent and a light hearted one at that.”
Following backlash from both parents and students, many of whom have threatened to leave the school’s prom if they are handed a modesty poncho, Divine Child’s principal Eric Haley issued a letter to parents saying the ponchos were never actually meant to be handed out.
Letter sent to Divine Child parents about the “Modesty Poncho” says they were on display to warn NOT to be passed out at prom but during our interview Monday it was clearly stated they would be passed out & some students have already requested & received them @FOX2News pic.twitter.com/MOtswuHKhu
— Jessica Dupnack (@JDupnackFOX2) May 1, 2018
“Our intention with displaying the poncho was never to make students feel uncomfortable, but to remind all students and parents of our formal Prom dress policy, which has not changed for several years,” Haley wrote. “To be clear: The poncho will not be passed out at Prom. It was on display to proactively remind students of our dress code policies and eliminate any confusion prior to this special event.”
The incident is just one of several in recent months that has added to the conversation surrounding the way in which high school dress codes often unfairly target female students, suggesting to them that it is their responsibility to cover up in school to prevent male students from being distracted — instead of sending the message to male students that it is their responsibility to focus on their education instead of bare shoulders.