Students Start Petition Against Philadelphia Catholic School’s Prom Dress Policy

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    Planning a party involves organizing hundreds of details, from invitations to decorations, to food and entertainment. Organizing a prom requires much of the same. However, one Philadelphia Catholic school has added an additional item to their to-do list — the inspection and authorization of female students’ prom dresses.

    Now, an online petition started by disgruntled students is calling for an end to the “degrading, arbitrary and unfair” dress code policy at Archbishop Ryan High School.

    The petition reads:

    ”In today’s society, a woman’s body is constantly discriminated against and hypersexualized to the point where they can no longer wear the clothing that they feel comfortable in without the accusation and/or assumption that they are being provocative. The dress code is sexist, and the harsh restriction and application are completely unnecessary.”

    While the petition is focused on the strict stipulations outlined in the prom dress code, another controversial issue is the way in which dresses are approved for prom. Students are required to bring their dresses to school and model them in front of a group of administrators. If a student chooses not to bring in her dress, she must submit a full body shot (front and back) of herself in the dress to an email address that is monitored by three administrators — one male and two female.

    This, of course, drew criticism from some of the girls’ parents, though Archdiocese of Philadelphia spokesperson Ken Gavin assured them that the emails are securely stored and deleted just after prom.

    According to Gavin, the prom dress code policy is in place to ensure modesty at the school function. Both the dress code and the authorization practice are made clear to students and parents at least six months before the prom, giving them plenty of time to find an appropriate outfit.

    Yet female students are still concerned that their bodies and their fashion choices are being scrutinized too severely. So far, the petition has accrued more than 660 signees.

    There are roughly 33,619 private schools operating in the U.S. today, and these schools serve 5.4 million prekindergarten through grade-12 students. Many of these private schools are religious institutions, and as private organizations they have more control over policies like student dress codes.

    While some schools are stricter than others in terms of student conduct and dress, Catholic schools tend to be on the more conservative end. Recently, another Catholic school went viral for its strict prom dress code when it published a 21-page rule book for proper prop dressing.

    But is this prom dress approval practice going too far? What’s next? One in 10 people admit that they regularly forget to brush their teeth; will school officials be regulating that, too?

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