Survey of Texas districts’ prom dress codes highlights administrators’ concerns with revealing dresses, tattoos, and piercings

According to the Cleburne Times-Review survey of local school districts’ prom dress codes, most ban excessive displays of flesh. Alvarado High School, which recently held its prom, instructed students not to wear dresses that showed their midriffs, excessive skin or dresses that sat higher than 4 inches above the knee. An Alvarado Independent School District spokesperson added that tattoos could not be visible and no piercings, other than regular, school-appropriate ones, were allowed to be worn.

On the other hand, Joshua High School, which will hold its prom later this month, has no prom dress code. “That’s the only night of the year we don’t have a dress code,” JHS Principal Mick Cochran said. “Our students have always been very modest, and I am going to continue to trust them. If myself and the other adults felt like something was way over the top, we would probably ask [the student] to make an adjustment.”

Cleburne Independent School District’s (CISD) prom is in May. The junior/senior prom, has a typical dress code. “Stomachs and sides need to be covered,” reads the first rule of prom dress attire. The dress code, which has slowly evolved with the change in styles, is reviewed each year by a committee of faculty and advisors, said Lisa Magers, CISD spokesperson. “No drastically low necklines or excessive cleavage,” reads another rule. “Back of dress must cover the waistline, dipping no further.” That means the back of a dress can not sit lower than the student’s natural waistline.

Male students are also included in the written dress code, which reads that tennis shoes, shorts and sweatpants are all forbidden from the dance floor. Dark black pressed jeans are allowed, only if paired with a tuxedo jacket.

“I would say the dress code has pretty much stayed the same except for in recent years, we’ve allowed the boys to wear earrings,” Magers said. “Piercings can be anywhere in the ears,” Principal Jennifer Baadsgaard said. “Just not in the face.”

Source:  Cleburne Times-Review, 4/4/12, By Amber Washington 

[Editor's Note: During prom season, a number of legal issues may arise for school districts, such as same-sex dates, appropriate attire, searches for drugs, alcohol or weapons, or the use of breathalyzers. For example, in January 2006 Legal Clips summarized an article in the Kansas City Star (available to COSA members), reporting that a Jackson, Missouri, high school student protested his principal's order that he change from the kilt he was wearing to a school dance into pants.

In March 2010, Legal Clips summarized a decision by a Mississippi federal district court in McMillen v. Itawamba Cty. Sch. Dist., holding that a school district that refused to allow a lesbian student to attend prom with a same-sex date and wearing gender non-conforming attire, i.e., a tuxedo, violated that student’s First Amendment rights. However, the court refused to issue a preliminary injunction ordering the school district to sponsor the prom.]

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