Divine Child ends prom 'modesty ponchos'

Mark Hicks, Charles E. Ramirez, and Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Divine Child High School principal has rescinded a plan to require female students to wear “modesty ponchos” at prom on May 12 if their dresses are too revealing.

Staff of the Dearborn Catholic high school is set to hand out “modesty ponchos” to students whose prom dresses are deemed inappropriate or do not abide by school policy, one student wrote on Twitter.

Staff of the Dearborn Catholic high school was set to hand out “modesty ponchos” to students whose prom dresses are deemed inappropriate or do not abide by school policy, one student wrote on Twitter.

The would-be attendee recently tweeted a photo showing a salmon-colored cloak on mannequins inside the school with a note saying: “If your dress does not meet our formal dance dress requirements - no problem! We’ve got you covered - literally…”

The youth couldn’t hide her disdain stating the policy is a form of body shaming.

“turns out the prom dress that i’ve had for months is against school code!” she tweeted. “looks like i have to return it and buy a brand new dress ...”

But at least one staff member believes the garb is good for teens.

“We are trying focus on the inner beauty and not draw attention to something that doesn’t need attention drawn to it,” theology teacher Mary Pat O’Malley told Fox 2. “It was really intended as a deterrent and a lighthearted one at that.”

O’Malley could not be reached for comment Monday night.

However, the school’s principal, Eric Haley, issued a statement Tuesday about the ponchos through the Archdiocese of Detroit. The statement was included in a letter sent home to its students’ parents.

“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,” he said in the letter. “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.”

He also said the poncho will not be passed out at prom and was on display to proactively remind students of the school’s 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,” Haley said. “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.”

Officials also said the archdiocese and the school will not comment further on the ponchos.

“On behalf of the school, we respectively request that community members be permitted to remain focused on their shared mission of academic excellence and spiritual growth,” they said.

As news of the policy spread, reaction was noticeably negative on social media.

“DC should give the money it costs to make modesty ponchos to the girls who have to buy new dresses for prom,” one user tweeted.

Another wrote on Facebook: “Not at all surprised my high school would do something like this. The length of my skirt was always of greater importance to the administration than the quality of my education.”

Some, however, were supportive.

“As a former student at this school, the staff wouldn’t do this if they didn’t have to. Some of these girls try going to prom looking like they just got out of a Hooters interview,” one user wrote on Facebook. “Y’all go to a catholic high school, this shouldn’t be a surprise that the school wants their students to be modest. Get a decent dress or rock those ponchos, ladies.”

A third person couldn’t see what the fuss was about. “(I) cant wait until after prom when everyone realizes that the modesty poncho actually wasn’t that big of a deal,” their tweet read.


The Associated Press contributed.