At a special meeting earlier this week, the Board of Education in Readington Township, N.J., voted to maintain a controversial ban on strapless dresses at next month’s annual year-end dinner formal for eighth graders.
However, as a compromise, reports northern New Jersey’s Daily Record, school officials will now allow clear spaghetti straps as well as single-strap gowns.
Sharon Moffat, the principal at Readington Middle School, instituted the ban in early April �“ despite the fact that, according to Gothamist, the event will be funded by parents and is scheduled to occur at a private venue called Razberry’s.
Her decision divided this otherwise quiet and tranquil community. A number of parents have called the policy sexist. Some parents also say it’s unfair to families which had bought strapless gowns already.
Once regional television news outfits got wind of the dispute, news trucks swarmed into town. “Good Morning America” and other national programs got involved, too, interviewing parents and students.
At some point, Moffat received a death threat via email. The school district responded to the death threat by cancelling a separate dance for middle schoolers last Friday.
“Kids are fighting among themselves and saying ‘Your mother said this’ and ‘My mother said that,’” Angie Gibble, the mother of one middle school student, told the Daily Record.
Some parents who disagreed with the new rule alleged that Moffat told them that gangly, braces-wearing eighth-grade girls arrayed in strapless gowns could distract eighth-grade boys too much. However, district officials are stressing their fear that gangly, braces-wearing eighth-grade girls could end up in embarrassing situations if their dresses slip off.
“It is the board’s position that the risk of a wardrobe mishap either intentional or unintentional and the possibility of the dissemination of such an occurrence through social media should be mitigated,” school board member Laura Simon said in a prepared statement.
Translation: we’re scared that one of our eighth-grade girls will have her dress fall down and some malicious twit will snap a picture and text it to the world.
The school board’s youngest member, 21-year-old Vincent Panico, alleged that he remembers a junior-high girl in another school district having a similar mishap. Many years later, the woman still bears “physical and emotional scars,” Panico said, according to the Daily Record.
“A strapless-dress ban would have prevented that,” he contended.
The parents who disagree with the ban seem to have been responsible for making it into a news story. MyCentralJersey.com interviewed some of them before the school board made its decision.
“I would not allow my daughter to wear something that I felt was inappropriate to a function like that,” said angry mother Melissa May. “As parents, we should have the ability to say what our children wear.”
“I’ve seen full dresses that are more inappropriate than these (strapless) dresses,” added father Harry Nijenhuis. “It’s not an inappropriate dress. It’s a fancy dress.”
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- Sharon Moffat