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This High School Put Up "Modesty Poncho" Displays To Encourage Teens To Follow Dress Code For Prom

"If your dress does not meet our formal dance dress requirements — no problem! We've got you covered — literally."

Posted on May 1, 2018, at 2:48 p.m. ET

Fox 2 / Via fox2detroit.com

A Catholic high school is under fire for displaying "modesty ponchos" to encourage teens to follow the dress code requirements for the school's prom.

The ponchos were put out at Divine Child High School in Dearborn, Michigan, before the school's dance on May 12, according to Fox 2.

"If your dress does not meet our formal dance dress requirements — no problem! We've got you covered — literally," a note on the ponchos read. "This is our Modesty Poncho, which you'll be given at the door. :)"

Fox 2 reported on Monday that the ponchos would be passed out to teens at the dance who wore dresses that did not meet school requirements.

However, in an email to parents on Tuesday, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News, the school's principal, Eric Haley, disputed the station's reporting.

"To be clear: the poncho will not be passed out at prom," the email read. "It was on display to proactively remind students of our dress code policies and eliminate any confusion prior to this event."

"I believe the modesty poncho is a great idea," a senior who wished to remain anonymous, told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday.

"Prom is all about having fun with your friends and feeling beautiful in the dress you have chosen to wear," she said. "It is not a contest to see who can show the most amount of skin. We go to a private Catholic school, and modesty and chastity is one of the focal points of our religion."

Another student at the high school, who also wished to remain anonymous, told BuzzFeed News that teens "feel uncomfortable in their own skin."

"A lot of the students feel that the adults that hear about the story think that we are just mad because we can’t wear the dress we want," she said.

"A lot of high schoolers feel uncomfortable in their own skin and when they finally find something they feel beautiful in they get harassed for wearing it," she continued. "This is a deeper societal issue that I hope people will work to fix."

Students and parents must sign an agreement about dress guidelines for the dance. Here's a look at those dress requirements, obtained by Fox 2. It includes rules like "No backless dresses" and "No exposed cleavage."

Fox 2 / Via fox2detroit.com

Theology teacher Mary Pat O'Malley came up with the "modesty poncho" idea, Fox 2 reported. O'Malley didn't immediately return a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.

Fox 2 / Via fox2detroit.com
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O'Malley told Fox 2 that Divine Child High School is "trying to focus on the inner beauty."

"We are trying focus on the inner beauty of people and not draw attention to something that doesn't really need to have attention drawn to it," she said.

She added: "It was really intended as a deterrent and a very lighthearted one at that."

A parent and a student, speaking anonymously to Fox 2, said that they disliked the ponchos.

"It's a method of shaming, a method of bullying..." a parent told the TV station.

In response to a request for comment from the high school, the Archdiocese of Detroit provided BuzzFeed News with the email from Haley.

Archdiocese of Detroit

While Haley said that "modesty ponchos" will not be passed out at the prom, he did say the school will pass out "wraps and shawls."

"We encourage our students to tailor their outfits or provide their own wraps or shawls that would meet our requirements," Haley said.

"If necessary, we may also provide wraps and shawls, as we have done at school functions for many years."

Fox 2 / Via fox2detroit.com

CORRECTION

Dearborn, Michigan, was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

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