Administrators Are Still Enforcing Antiquated Ideas About How to Celebrate Prom
It’s prom season — the time of year when school administrators attempt to enforce the gender norms, as well as the rules of heteronormativity, that were followed when they were growing up. Students have been resisting this for years. But now that social media allows them to spread news of arbitrary rules about who gets to wear a dress to prom, administrators are contending with social pressure from all over the country.
Here are a few of the local stories that made national news this prom season that represent some of the typical ways administrators enforce gender norms and spread anti-LGBTQ attitudes:
Telling students their clothes have to conform to gender expectations
Even though it’s been many decades since it was considered scandalous to wear jeans to school, principals are still having a tough time allowing girls to wear pants at formal events. This critique is especially confounding when you think about common complaints that female students aren’t meeting prom dress code by wearing skirts that are deemed too short or show too much cleavage. Nonetheless, taking dresses out of the equation entirely is also considered inappropriate.
Bishop McDevitt High School, a private Catholic school in Pennsylvania, stopped student Aniya Wolf from attending her own prom because she was wearing a suit. The school’s dress code notice said female students would have to wear formal dresses to the prom and the school tried to convince her mother to urge her daughter to wear a dress. When she was rejected from her own prom, she attended another school’s prom, where the dress code did not enforce those rules.
Even when girls are allowed to wear suits, sometimes boys are told they can’t wear dresses. At Meriden Public School in Connecticut, a boy was told he couldn’t wear a dress to his prom, and students launched a petition in support of his preference. A gender-fluid high student student in a Florida high school eventually got his wish to wear a sparkly black and gold dress to prom, but not until the ACLU reached out to the school about its policy that students wear prom dress “in keeping with their gender.”