READINGTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A crowd of parents gathered at a New Jersey middle school Tuesday night, challenging the principal’s ban on strapless dresses for an eighth grade dance.
Parent after parent spoke before the Readington Township Board of Education, upset about what they called a rash and unjustified order to ban all strapless dresses for the dance in mid-June, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
“What message are we giving them by telling them it’s not appropriate to show your shoulders?” middle school parent Michele D’Amici.
Samantha Reiche, an eighth grader, showed up with her mother to protest the ban.
“I don’t really think it’s fair. It’s not her decision to make,” she said, adding that she had already bought her dress and it is, in fact, strapless.
Samantha Reiche and her mother, Anne Rieche, claimed the principal told them the move was necessary because strapless dresses distract teenage boys.
“It’s ridiculous. Maybe blonde-haired girls distract boys. Should they dye their hair then?” Ann Reiche said. “I don’t think it was her decision to make.”
Other parents said strapless dresses are not always provocative dresses.
“As a parent, I make sure my kids are dressed appropriately. There are lots of princess dresses that have no straps and there are lots of others that do have spaghetti straps that are very slinky and revealing,” parent Denise Esakoff said.
While parents complained about the random nature of the ban, Superintendent Barbara Sargent and board members just listened.
Earlier, the district released a statement which said: “The Readington Township School District has a policy regarding dress code which is being universally applied to the school day and school events. We regret that a small number of families are upset by this and we welcome their input and communication. The Board of Education regularly reviews and revises policy through its Communications/Policy Committee.”
But parents said it’s more than being upset. It’s a matter of sexual discrimination.
“What bothers me most about this rule is that it implicates that no matter how women are dressed, it’s their fault when something happens to them and that is appalling!” said parent Harry Nijenhuis.
His wife, Charlotte Nijenhuis, earlier said it’s neither a woman’s nor a girl’s responsibility to control a man’s or boy’s behavior.
“This is her personal opinion that she’s imposing. And in my mind, she’s interfering with parental rights to decide with their children what is or is not appropriate, and it’s all within the customs of the 21st century in the western world,” Nijenhuis told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
Their 14-year-old her daughter, Claudine, plans to wear a strapless dress regardless.
“Even though they say it distracts boys, it’s not our fault of what their behavior is. It’s their own fault,” Claudine said. “They should control what they do.”
Charlotte Nijenhuis said the school principal’s decision also infringes on civil liberties.
“She’s legislating morality and her personal opinion is irrelevant,” Nijenhuis told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
She said parents are the ones who should be making such decisions.
“I think children are mature and they can handle it and I think it’s up to the parents. I think we’re spending too much time focusing on the little things in life and that’s ridiculous,” Nijenhuis told Diamond.
In a personal letter to the middle school principal, Claudine Nijenhuis said, “I will still be attending the dinner dance function, but I will also be wearing a dress with no straps…”
“I think a strapless dress is prettier than one with straps,” she said.
CBS 2 brought the potential gender or sexism issue to clinical psychologist Dr. Judy Kuriansky. She said self-control and middle school boys just don’t always mix.
“Boys should control their emotions, but the fact of the matter is that they have a hard time doing that, and they need time in order to get comfortable with sexuality,” she said.
But without a strapless dress policy in writing, Nijenhuis said there’s room for plenty of exposure in other places.
The school board is referring the strapless ban to its policy committee, and could overturn the principal’s decision. Eighth grade girls will find out if they can wear the dresses many have already bought by the next meeting on May 14.
Do you think the ban on strapless dresses should be lifted? Leave your comments below…