Yow! I hit a hot button with many of you (mostly girl-moms) when I wrote Tuesday about Homecoming attire. I shared the story of Mesquite High School’s Homecoming last weekend, and the angry students (and parents) when girls were turned away for wearing low cut necklines and short dresses. I said I doubted we’d have much controversy at Lake Highlands High.

I’m not sure if I’m out of touch because I no longer have students at LHHS or because I think more like a boy-mom these days, but a dust-up over dress code may be brewing.

When the school year began, new principal Peggy Dillon and her staff conducted an informational assembly with students – a kind of Dress Code 101. Sleeveless tops should cover the entire shoulder, they said, cleavage should not be visible, no spaghetti straps or strapless shirts permitted. What caught the kids’ attention was one new rule: skirts and shorts must fall to just above the knee. And the fact that the dress code would be enforced at school dances, including Homecoming and prom.

First, the kids’ side:

It’s hot in Texas, they say. We wear tank tops and shorts. Athletic running shorts have been standard until at LHHS until almost Thanksgiving. As have strapless or spaghetti-strap prom dresses falling to mid thigh, even after stretching to pull them down. What’s the big deal, if our conservative dads give the okay?

What the moms say:

I understand the need for rules and to keep attire decent, but have you ever tried shopping for a teenage girl? What you are asking for doesn’t exist in stores. I’ve purchased and approved her clothing at great expense to our family and now you say she can’t wear it. That’s usurping my authority, and I’ll have to spend more money to buy different clothes. Why wasn’t I told about the changes before school began? And how can the sundress my daughter wears to church be any less acceptable than that boy’s jeans sagging to near his knees with his underwear clearly visible?

What the school says:

“We want kids to come to Homecoming and have a good time,” Peggy Dillon told me, “but it is a school function. We hope they’ll enjoy the festivities and celebrate being together but also make good choices. We aren’t on a mission to keep kids out of the dance, but part of our message is: we’ll be watching.” Administrators will be on hand with sweatshirts to help dress code violators cover up, but students with outfits or behavior inappropriate for a school-sponsored event will be sent home.

“This would probably not be an issue if Mesquite’s Homecoming hadn’t been such a fiasco,” said Dillon, who graduated from North Mesquite High School. “We won’t be standing at the door with a ruler – we’re just going to do what we normally do. We understand that this is a dance, but we will be there to make sure our students stay safe. All week on announcements, we’ve let students know there will be consequences for those who violate our dress code or code of conduct.”

We’ll have to wait until Saturday night’s Homecoming dance to see how the issue plays out, but as I did in my first post, I worry a bit about what happens if kids are turned away or opt out of the dance altogether. “Who wants to go to a dance with dumb rules like that, anyway” one student asked. “We’ll just have our own party and wear what we want.” It doesn’t take much imagination to consider what kind of trouble teens can get into when they are railing against “the man keeping us down.” The life of a teenager can be like dry kindling just waiting for one spark of rebellion. It doesn’t take much to light a roaring fire.