When the administrator of his daughter’s school let slip the real reason why they had singled her out, he stood with his mouth open in utter disbelief. After a few seconds of listening to them berate his daughter, he decided that enough was enough. He rolled up his sleeves and readied himself for a fight.
Tony Alarcon wasn’t a man to take things lying down. As a successful investment banker and real estate mogul, he was used to getting his way. The things his daughter’s school was saying about his little girl were completely unacceptable. And when he saw her tearstained face, he knew he had to use all his resources to make things right.
Tony’s daughter, Demetra, was mortified that she had been singled out that day. Although her situation was by no means unique, it didn’t make it any less embarrassing for the teenager. When she’d picked out the outfit that had gotten her kicked out of school, she hadn’t seen anything wrong with it. So, what was all the fuss about?
The Outfit That Caused So Much Trouble
Although schools differ in their dress code policies, Demetra’s school didn’t insist on a uniform. All they asked was that what the students wore to school was modest. But when Demetra picked out that cute little outfit one sweltering Californian morning, she never expected her clothes to cause such a stir – and result in a clash of epic proportions between the school and her own father.
Demetra’s outfit had become a hot-button topic overnight, and soon she was caught up in a whirlwind of media and public outcry. But why? After all, Demetra’s choice of clothing was no different from other girls her age. And on such a hot day, who could blame her? Aside from all the attention, there was another outcome over her outfit that she never saw coming. And it was even worse.
Raymond J. Fisher Middle School is located in Los Gatos, California. On this particular day, it was 90 degrees and rising. Demetra chose the blue romper purely for comfort. Even so, there was just something about this outfit that would make everyone lose their minds. In the first period, the teacher called her out in front of everyone. Then, the principal made the mistake of calling her father.
The principal gave Tony two options. One, he could come and fetch Demetra immediately, or two, he could bring her a change of clothes. Tony simply couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary or untoward with Demetra’s outfit today – and he would know. He was the one who had dropped her off that morning!
Seething, Tony decided to bring Demetra a change of clothes. He rifled through her drawers until he came across something that he thought was appropriate – a plain tank top and a pair of denim shorts. He drove to the school and found his daughter waiting at the gate with tear stains on her face. But the school wasn’t done singling Demetra out just yet. Tony’s battle had only just begun.
What Was The Problem?
After Demetra had changed out of the offending outfit and into something else, the principal again said that her clothes were inappropriate. Now, Tony was furious. He asked the school’s administrator exactly what the problem was. He even made Demetra bend over to demonstrate that her shorts were covering her adequately. He wouldn’t be satisfied until they told him the truth.
Standing Up For His Daughter
Not satisfied with the school administrator’s answer, Tony insisted that they tell him the real reason why his daughter was being singled out. He had a suspicion, but in this day and age, he didn’t think that it couldn’t possibly be true. Even though he had prepared for this, he was still furious when they came right out and said it.
The school administrator then went on to explain that the dress code violation had nothing to do with modesty and everything to do with length. She stammered that the romper Demetra had worn and the denims that Tony had picked out didn’t pass the “fingertip test.” But Tony knew that wasn’t the real reason.
Tony argued that the other girls in Demetra’s class were wearing similar outfits — he saw them for himself as he pulled into the parking lot. Why weren’t they being pulled from class for wearing shorts and tank tops? And just what was the “fingertip test” anyway? Tony was becoming angrier by the minute. They didn’t know who they were messing with.
The administrator explained that the “fingertip test” is the standard that the pupils of the school had to adhere to. Tony asked Demetra to relax and let her arms fall to her sides so that he could see for himself. But the shorts’ hem fell just below her extended fingertips. Seeing that the furious father wasn’t going to accept this explanation, she quickly came up with another one. But when he heard it, Tony saw red.
Just exactly what was the school administrator insinuating about his daughter? He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He asked her to repeat herself so that he could process what she’d just said before flying off the handle. Of course, he thought cynically. Of course, the real reason had to do with the boys in Demetra’s class.
The administrator regretted the words that came out of her mouth instantly. Ha! Tony thought. Now he knew the real reason why the school had such a problem with the way his daughter dressed. And he wasn’t going to take it lightly. The reason for his daughter’s tears wasn’t that the school had a certain image to adhere to, or that she was dressed immodestly. It was because she could be a distraction to the boys in her class.
Cover Up, Or Get Out
Then, the administrator said that the only way Demetra would be allowed to attend her classes was if Tony fetched her some leggings to cover herself up with. In the 90-degree heat! Demetra and her father couldn’t believe the unfairness of it all. Demetra felt like she was being picked on, and her father agreed with her. This school was about to get schooled.
Demetra quickly pointed out that the school dress code was never enforced on the boys in her class. She used wearing hats in class as an example. The school forbade wearing hats in class, yet the boys broke this rule all the time. Even worse, they were never singled out in front of everyone and their parents called! Then, her dad decided to weigh in.
Not The Only Offender
Keeping his anger at bay, he pointed out that he’d noticed other students while he was in the parking lot who were definitely not following the rules. He said that the girls, and his daughter, in particular, were being watched far more than the boys. How could this be fair? Then, he raised another important point.
On a day this hot, how could the girls wear leggings? He argued that the school’s dress code clearly didn’t allow for hot weather. Tony felt that some leniency should be given to students when temperatures are that high. Wearing shorter, lighter clothing is a simple issue of being comfortable in the heat. The fact that his daughter couldn’t be comfortable due to distracted boys was unacceptable to him. And he wasn’t about to simply let it go.
Tony decided to get Demetra’s friends to voice their opinions on the matter, and they didn’t disappoint. Almost every girl he asked felt like the dress code rules were unfair and that the system was flawed. These girls were being made to feel uncomfortable in the summer, all because the boys couldn’t control themselves? Tony refused to accept it.
Taking It To The Media
The angry dad took to the media with his daughter’s dilemma, appearing on Today and a few other local news reports. He had the money and inclination to make himself heard. He voiced his concerns, but his biggest was how the school had made her feel that day. He stated that a girl of her age only wants to be comfortable, nothing more. His daughter had been mortified when she had been pulled from class because of what she wore. But would Tony win the fight?
Fighting The System
When asked what the solution to the school’s outdated dress code would be, he proposed that it wasn’t up to the teachers to decide what they did and didn’t feel was appropriate. He said that the decision should lie solely with the students’ parents. With his opinion gaining traction, Tony decided to go public.
A Bigger Issue
He proposed reasonable amendments to the school’s dress code, stating that “underwear and midriffs could not be visible” and that there should be “no shirts with spaghetti straps.” But what he didn’t know was that he was just scratching at the surface of a much bigger issue in society. And not everyone agreed with Tony’s stance.
While most people were supportive of Tony, saying that he was uncovering the issue of body image and the objectification of girls, some said that if teenagers were allowed to wear what they wanted the education system would fall into chaos. One dad had caused such a stir that soon everyone was talking about the hot-button topic.
It wasn’t long before the school decided to respond to Tony’s accusations. They stated that the dress code was in place in order to establish guidelines for “reasonable decorum.” Tony, not backing down, was adamant that the school had completely overreacted to his daughter’s clothes. Principal Fraser finally decided to hold a meeting and conceded that some compromises needed to be made. What those changes will be, only time will tell. But Demetra wasn’t the only teen to shake up dress code policies in the education sector.
A Night To Remember
As 17-year-old Clare and her boyfriend James Thompson made their way to a home school prom, themed “Twilight in Paris,” they were thrilled for the night ahead of them. They felt good, they looked great, and they were ecstatic to finally unwind with friends. Her boyfriend had even purchased them tickets to the prom way in advance. Nothing, they thought, could take this night away from them.
The Perfect Dress
Indeed, she had worked hard to pick out the perfect dress: a glittery silver number that she had found after searching in six different stores, eventually finding it at Macy’s. She couldn’t wait to show off her “gorgeous, silver, and sparkly” cocktail dress to all her friends. Little did she realize, it was this dress that, for some, would push things way too far.
The “Fingertip Test”
But for Clare, this was the perfect dress. After months of saving up her tip money from work, she had finally found something that she loved and could actually afford. But it wouldn’t be so easy: her new dress would need to pass the notorious fingertip length test. So she relaxed her arms at her sides, praying that her dress hem falls below her fingertips.
Clare carefully noted that the prom dress code listed on the registration form was simple, which asked girls to keep their dresses semi-formal at a fingertip length. And although it was a close call, the dress made the cut. She was confident that this was the perfect dress. Even so, there was just something about this dress that would make everyone lose their minds.
“I’m all dolled up, channeling my inner Marilyn Monroe with my blonde hair and bright red lipstick,” Clare recalled, writing on her sister’s blog. But before her big debut, she needed to do just one final test. And unfortunately this time around, her results came up a bit short.
Had To Be Careful
To ensure that she would be complying with the event’s rules, she had test the outfit with heels before going out. But this time the hem of her dress dangled dangerously close to her fingertips. Any exaggerated moves, like dancing for example, would cause it to hike up her thighs. But as long as she moved gracefully, all would be well. And yet as soon as she showed up to the dance, hosted at a local Methodist church, she was confronted.
Upon arrival, she was immediately approached by administration. Despite her meticulous preparation, one of the organizers, Ann Duncan, stopped her at the door and said, “Honey, that dress is too short.” Unafraid and confident in her elegant outfit, Clare boldly shot back at Mrs. Duncan “What is the rule?”
As Clare expected, she responded, “Fingertip length.” Clare went on to explain that the dress simply appeared short on her because she’s a tall, curvy girl with long legs. However, Mrs. Duncan informed that her dress was just inappropriately short, and that it failed to comply with the dress code. It would seem Clare would have to fight her way in.
But Clare wouldn’t budge. After quickly demonstrating that her outfit did indeed pass the fingertip test, the pretty partygoer was begrudgingly allowed access to the ballroom, albeit with a threat: “Well, make sure it stays pulled down. It’s too short.” Unfortunately for Clare, that was only a warning shot. The real battle had yet to begin.
Indeed, Clair later wrote, “When I got into the ballroom I laughed, because I was surrounded by girls in much shorter dresses then me, albeit they were shorter, and therefore stood out less in the crowd, but it was still frustrating.” Even so, Clare had finally made it inside and was ready to celebrate the special night. A few minutes later though, Clare and her friends spotted something sinister looming just above their heads.
Clare’s boyfriend James described the dance as pretty awkward, and heavily chaperoned in comparison to previous years. He said that a lot of people were standing around talking in the center of the dance floor. But the thing that really made things awkward was the line of chaperones and dads looking down on them gawking from the balcony above.
Understandably, Clare and her friends felt deeply uncomfortable. “I felt violated by the sheer number of male parents that were assigned to do nothing for five hours other then watch girls in short dresses and heels dance to upbeat music,” Clare wrote on her blog post. “I think that it is sick and wrong that they assigned them to sit on a balcony above us and look down on us and single us out for our clothes or dancing.” Nevertheless, they paid them no attention. They couldn’t let that ruin their night, could they? Sadly though, their prom was doomed from the very beginning. Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Duncan stormed over to her again. This time, she was clearly on the warpath.
Mrs. Duncan beckoned her over and escorted her off the dance floor. “She took me into a corner in the hallway, with another woman – who I’m assuming was a parent chaperone – and told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts,” Clare wrote in a blog post. It seems like the dads were the ones thinking impure thoughts. If anyone should be sent home, shouldn’t it be the gross dads?
Not Without A Fight
Furthermore, saying her outfit causes “impure thoughts” isn’t much of a stretch from “she asked for it” when people blame victims of sexual assault for what they were wearing. Are the thoughts and actions of young men and their fathers really her responsibility? According to the school, yes. Well, Clare wasn’t going to take this lying down. It was time to fight back.
Fired up, Clare defended herself and tried to clear up the situation. After making it abundantly clear that she wasn’t dancing at all, she once again showed Mrs. Duncan that her dress was the appropriate length, but she just wasn’t listening. “I never signed any documentation agreeing to adhere to any sort of dress code, and the dress code that was verbally communicated to me was followed to the letter,” Clare said. Her concerned friends tried to intervene in the conversation and testify that they hadn’t been dancing, but Mrs. Duncan brushed them off, saying it “was none of their business.” That’s when Clare’s boyfriend said enough is enough.
Clearly disgusted, he told the administrators “That’s fine, she wasn’t doing anything wrong but if you’re kicking her out then the group that she came with is leaving too and you’ll need to refund all of our tickets.” Immediately after, all of them demanded a refund on their $25 tickets. But for Clare, seeing that a mere $25 refund was hardly enough to cover the trauma she just went through, came up with a better idea.
After heated, yet respectful, negotiations failed, James attempted to get the prom’s manager involved. At that point, Clare said that Mrs. Duncan became enraged, repeatedly saying “I will not debate with you about this!” So when James continued to press her even further, Mrs. Duncan snapped, calling on a chaperone to finish this once and for all.
When Mrs. Duncan got security to escort them off the premises, Clare was heartbroken. The moment she had been waiting years for had devolved into chaos. Visibly upset and with tears rolling down her cheeks, Clare and her group of friends were all thrown out of the prom “because I stuck out,” she wrote. “I have long legs and I was wearing a sparkly dress, I didn’t look like most of the 13-15-year-old girls there, I looked like a woman. I am so tired of people who abuse their power to make women feel violated and ashamed.” “I was told that the way I dressed and moved my body was causing men to think inappropriately about me, implying that it is my responsibility to control other people’s thoughts and drives,” said Claire. It was then and there that Clare hatched her revenge plot.
As she was being escorted, crying, from the venue, Clare says she asked the security guard what he made of the situation. “I asked the security guy if my dress was compliant with the dress code and if he had noticed any inappropriateness in my behavior and he said he didn’t think I did anything to get kicked out but it wasn’t his call,” Clare wrote. And despite that the fact that they were all told they would get refunds for the tickets, Clare was the only one who got her money back.
“We walked out of the prom, frustrated and angry and feeling very disrespected and violated,” Clare said. But Clare wouldn’t let it end there. She took to the internet to blow the whistle on this injustice, and women the world overheard her message loud and clear.
Since the incident, angry people from all over took to the Facebook page of the Richmond Homeschool Prom to express their disgust at the situation, and the administrators deleted all the comments. Now, it appears that they have deleted their page altogether. One person, however, is standing up for the decision to kick her out.
Mrs. Duncan Speaks Out
“The whole situation made me feel violated, walked over, and ostracized,” wrote Clare in a blog post. “How is it that what I look like and how I dress constitutes the level of respect you give me?” However, when pressed by CBS News, Mrs. Duncan had another side of the story to tell.
She says the dress may have been the right length when Clare arrived, but that the outfit’s spandex fabric caused it to ride up. “It was right below her butt cheeks by the time I saw her,” Mrs. Duncan told WTVR. While Mrs. Duncan says she didn’t see Clare dance, her comments that the dads were gathered on a balcony staring at her are unlikely. “It was very crowded,” Ms Duncan said. “There were 500 kids there, so to be able to even say what they were looking at would be really difficult.” But Clare is standing behind her blog post, and released a scathing video along with her boyfriend to counter Mrs. Duncan.
“I was informed by more then one friend who stayed at the prom throughout the course of the evening that there was some truly dirty dancing,” Clare retorts, “and that there were several couples making out and grinding on the dance floor, and yet out of a group of 500 people, only one person, (me) got thrown out for inappropriate dancing.” “I think both parties could have acted a little bit differently obviously but the way that it went down it was fine because people need to follow the rules,” Callie Hobbs, a student who went to the dance. She says she saw Clare “grinding.” Nevertheless, Clare continued to stand up for herself, writing about the prom online and recapping the events of the night on video and in interviews.
A Bigger Issue
“When the lady kicked me out, they said the dads had complained about my dancing and that meant that they had to have been watching me,” Clare fired back. The seventeen-year-old felt that she had been targeted because her body was more mature than those of some of the other girls in the room. “This is a message to girls built like me, who can’t find jeans that fit!” Care wrote in her blog. “The girls with long legs, who are forced to prove that their dresses fit the dress code, just because they have more leg showing then most girls.”
Ever since the story has gone viral, Clare has received an outpouring of support, with readers responding on Facebook, her blog post and across the media. And yet, neither the Richmond Homeschool Prom nor the individuals who had asked her to leave have ever reached out to Clare to discuss what had happened. “We were verbally promised a full refund for our group, we received only a refund for my ticket, they need to refund 5 more tickets for our group,” Clare wrote.
Sticking To Her Guns
Nevertheless, Clare stands by her posts and hopes the attention that the incident received has contributed to the examination of dress codes in both her own community and others. The case perfectly illustrates the problems kids and parents face and poses a dangerous question.
A Bigger Issue
With teenage girls shopping for the perfect dress, selections bordering on the wildly inappropriate to many parents, are we living in a culture that sexualizes girls at younger and younger age? And as a parent, what can we do to mitigate this?