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School asks students to submit pictures of their prom dresses for approval to avoid 'excess cleavage'

The requirement sent out via the school's text notification system last week stated that students would only be permitted to wear their approved outfits to the school's prom.

School asks students to submit pictures of their prom dresses for approval to avoid 'excess cleavage'
Cover Image Source: Getty Images (representative)

A high school principal in Shreveport, Louisiana, drew criticism after informing students that girls attending the school prom would have to submit photos of themselves in their planned outfits to get approval before purchasing them. The requirement that was sent out by Southwood High School's text notification system last week stated that students would only be permitted to wear their approved outfits to the school's prom in April. The text from Principal Kim Pendleton left students and parents divided as many debated whether the policy was too invasive.


"This message is for any female attending Southwood’s prom. Boys, this also applies to your off-campus dates," Pendleton wrote in the message, which was obtained by NBC affiliate KTAL. "As you begin shopping for your attire, please make sure you do not purchase any clothes that are sheer or revealing in any manner. Also, make sure we do not see excess cleavage or skin. Prior to purchasing an outfit, I will need you to send me a picture of you in the outfit with your name and grade. Once I approve the outfit, you may purchase it. The approved outfit is the only one you will be allowed to wear to prom."


The text wasn't well-received by students with many pointing out that the principal shouldn't have the final say in what they wear to prom—an expensive purchase often made months in advance—as it serves as a personal form of expression for them. Jakarius Simpson, whose sister is a student at Southwood, said that if someone gets to weigh in on a kid's prom dress, it should be a parent and not the principal. However, some parents did side with Pendleton, justifying it as an attempt at eliminating any gray area to avoid having to turn students away on prom night.


"As a grandparent, I’m kind of from the old school, back in the day. I can understand because there are some young ladies that are raising themselves more or less and they can get a little bit provocative," said Albert Bryant, whose granddaughter goes to Southwood. Following the backlash sparked by the principal's requirement, Caddo Parish Public Schools announced that students would be given an opportunity to express their concerns regarding the prom attire pre-approval at an upcoming assembly.


"In April, Southwood will host their annual prom and school administration has taken a proactive approach of asking parents for photos ahead of their upcoming event. It is a school-level decision for all formal dress to be approved prior to the event. Southwood will host an assembly for students only to address dress code guidelines and give an opportunity to raise questions and concerns," Caddo Parish Public Schools said in a statement. Meanwhile, Pendleton—a new principal to the school—said in a statement to NBC News that the text was sent out after she received feedback from several staff members and parents about students dressing inappropriately for school-hosted events. 


"In communicating the guidelines for appropriate conduct and dress, which are similar to what schools and districts require across the country, a decision was made to proactively work with families to ensure parents would not spend money on a dress which would be turned away for being inappropriate," she said. Pendleton added that the feedback from past events did not indicate an issue or concern with the attire of boys. The principal clarified that she had not denied any students' attire since the guideline was shared and that she'd even received positive feedback from "parents who are proud of the school for taking a stand to ensure prom is an encouraging, wholesome event."

However, on Friday, the Caddo Parish Public Schools issued a statement following a meeting with the Pendleton saying that "it is no longer a requirement for students to have preapproval for their formal dress prior to prom. Any student and parent who may have doubts are welcome to send in their photo or show the dress in person."


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