A private high school in Michigan has devised quite the plan to keep students from showing up to prom in anything even remotely revealing.
According to Detroit’s Fox 2, female students at Divine Child High School in Dearborn who show up to prom on May 12 with their sternums and shoulders exposed will be given a “Modesty Poncho” at the door.
They are called “Modesty Ponchos” by administrators at Divine Child Catholic High School. It’s new this year to keep female students in line with the dress code at prom. What do you think? pic.twitter.com/hd2NM3CvKP
— Jessica Dupnack (@JDupnackFOX2) April 30, 2018
The ponchos — hung on mannequins around the school building — will be given to students whose dresses are deemed inappropriate or revealing. Signs attached to them read:
“If your dress does not meet our formal dance dress requirements — no problem! We’ve got you covered — literally. This is our Modesty Poncho, which you’ll be given at the door.”
Unsurprisingly, many see the ponchos as an attack on female bodies, sexuality, and assertiveness. The student who brought the story to Fox 2’s attention but asked to remain anonymous explained:
“I do believe the school has gone too far with this,” they said. “As we walk into prom, we are to shake hands with all the teachers, and if you walk through and a teacher deems your dress is inappropriate, you will be given a poncho at the door.”
“Who knows what will happen to those who try to speak out against it?”
She mentioned that one girl has already been punished for protesting the poncho. “It’s a method of shaming…and degrading to females in its interpretation [of] what’s modest and what isn’t,” said a parent.
Many took to social media to poke fun at the school’s outdated take on the female form.
when you walk into prom and dc tells you that you need a modesty poncho pic.twitter.com/jf2SHd3r3u
— lauren (@ledavidsonlight) April 25, 2018
it’s a little chilly in here, could you pass me a modesty poncho?
— Abby Neill (@abbyneill_) April 24, 2018
dc girl: oooh this dress is so cute and it fits me perfectly… oh shoot it shows my back a little bit tho…
— hallway (@mini__madi) April 25, 2018
— terrifish (@terrifish) May 1, 2018
— well dang double daddy (@cisforcleis) May 1, 2018
I didn’t know “Modesty Poncho” was a term that would enter my lexicon today, yet here we are. https://t.co/omvMbscQrb
— Kyle Feldscher (@Kyle_Feldscher) May 1, 2018
— Maryann Struman (@mastruman) May 1, 2018
Modesty scarf pic.twitter.com/KWOEEbGeKb
— Ben Wiles (@_BenWiles) May 1, 2018
I will wear a modesty poncho when every boy wears schoolbells pants…
— Kendall Meadows (@kameadows12) May 1, 2018
Some pointed out the irony in the school not allowing a hijab despite residing in a largely Muslim populated neighborhood, yet enforcing that very thing on their prom seniors.
So a hijab is not accepted and forced to be taken off in a school that supposedly promotes “modesty” yet they’ll throw a poncho on you if they don’t like the way you’re dressed…
— Mahmoud Hage (@MahmoudCHage) April 30, 2018
Oh. Sharia Law does exist in Dearborn, after all? Hmm. https://t.co/s25PhbrpxM
— Diana Hussein (@heyadiana) May 1, 2018
“Modesty poncho” is my new favorite term for Burqa.
— Michael Christiansen (@MikeQuestionsIt) May 1, 2018
in my hometown, which right wingers have been smearing for years as a supposed hotbed of sharia, ‘modesty ponchos’ are being handed out — by Christians https://t.co/5kOrqNEFEM
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) May 1, 2018
According to a picture of the school’s written guidelines, dresses must be “appropriately fitted and modest.” They cannot have “plunging necklines or plunging back openings, exposed cleavage, two-pieces, or visible midriffs.”
Additionally, dresses cannot be higher than one inch above the knee, and cutouts below the “traditional bra line even with sheer material allowing skin to show” are not allowed.
Theology teacher Mary Pat O’Malley, who thought up the modesty-poncho idea, stands firm by her policy. “We are trying to focus on inner beauty and not draw attention to something that doesn’t need attention drawn to it,” she told Fox 2. “It was really intended as a deterrent and a lighthearted one at that.”
Watch Fox 2’s full segment below:
UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, school principal Eric Haley sent a letter to parents addressing the backlash over the modesty poncho:
Letter sent to Divine Child parents about the “Modesty Poncho” says they were on display to warn NOT to be passed out at prom but during our interview Monday it was clearly stated they would be passed out & some students have already requested & received them @FOX2News pic.twitter.com/MOtswuHKhu
— Jessica Dupnack (@JDupnackFOX2) May 1, 2018
Read the letter in full below:
“Dear Parents of Divine Child High School,
Like a majority of private and public schools, we ask that students and parents follow the dress code when they are purchasing Prom attire, just as they would follow the dress code for daily classes and other school events. Our intention with displaying the poncho was never to make students feel uncomfortable, but to remind all students and parents of our formal Prom dress policy, which has not changed for several years. To be clear: The poncho will not be passed out at Prom. It was on display to proactively remind students of our dress code policies and eliminate any confusion prior to this special event. We recognize that it has done the opposite for some members of our community and draws away from our goal of having students adhere to the dress code policy.
We encourage our students to tailor their outfits or provide their own wraps or shawls that would meet our requirements. If necessary, we may also provide wraps and shawls, as we have done at school functions for many years. Thank you to all who have contacted us directly to discuss this important matter. We are focused on creating a wonderful experience for our students to enjoy this memorable evening.
Divine Child High School”