Kids and Parents Battle School Over Dance Dress Code

A strapless dress

Thirteen-year-old Rachel Griffin was looking forward to the annual end-of-the-year dinner dance at Readington Middle School in Readington Township, New Jersey.

At least, she was until she got the word that the dress she bought would not be appropriate.

The reason?

It’s strapless.

“My dress is modest.  It’s not revealing whatsoever,” Rachel said Tuesday night, at a meeting of the township’s board of education.

Apparently, Rachel’s principal disagrees.

According to published reports, Readington Middle School principal Sharon Moffatt put the word out recently that girls’ dresses had to have straps or sleeves.

If not, they won’t be able to attend the dance.

“Everyone was angry.  We already bought our dresses,” Readington eighth-grader Claudine Nijenhuis told New York City TV station WNBC.  “She could have told us before spring break.”

But according to the Claudine’s mother, the principal’s timing is not the main issue.

“I’m objecting to the fact that the (school) can come in and change the rules without asking parents,” said Charlotte Nijenhuis, in an interview with the Courier News, one of the local newspapers.  “That’s an abuse of authority.”

Charlotte’s mom also particularly objected to the principal’s stated reason for the “no-strapless” policy.

“Ms. Moffat has stated that such dresses ‘distract boys’ and are ‘inappropriate’ for young girls,” Ms. Nijenhuis said in a letter to Readington schools superintendent Barbara Sargent, according to the Courier News.  “(Her) comment about ‘distraction’ to the boys is particularly offensive because it suggests that boys are not able to control – or ought not to be required to control – their behavior when in the presence of girls wearing strapless dresses.

“It’s a neither a woman’s nor a girl’s responsibility to control a man’s or a boy’s behavior,” Ms. Nijenhuis added.

Moffatt had not commented publicly on the dress issue as of Tuesday night.

But her “no strapless” policy reportedly has the superintendent’s support.

And some Readington parents are publicly backing her, too.

“I don’t think it’s about a dress code,” parent Phillip Ritter said at Tuesday night’s meeting.  “(It’s about) respecting authority.”

Ms. Nijenhuis disagrees.

“As a parent, (Ms. Moffat) is free to dictate the attire of her children,” she wrote.  “But as a principal of a public school and representative of all the residents of Readington, she ought to not unilaterally dictate what our children may or may not wear.”

(Doing something “unilaterally” means doing it without anyone else’s input or permission.)

Late Tuesday, principal Moffat and superintendent Sargent reportedly said they’d review the “no strapless” policy and announce their decision next month.

Rachel hopes they change their minds.

“I don’t want to waste my money,” she said Tuesday night, “just because I bought a dress that doesn’t have straps.”

What do you think?