She was suspended all the same.
“I feel it’s stupid because I got suspended for nothing,” Deramous said.
As high school seniors in Calhoun County and across the country continue to board limousines and purchase corsages in the coming weeks for their proms, many will come under the scrutiny of school administrators with varying interpretations of what is and is not appropriate formal wear.
Deramous was one of about 25 Oxford High students who were disciplined for violating the dress code at her school’s prom Saturday. The students in violation were allowed to stay at the prom, but the following week, each was given the option of receiving corporal punishment or accepting a three-day suspension from school, Oxford principal Trey Holladay said.
“We’re using the same policy we’ve had for the last five years,” Holladay said. “Being a parent, I want to make sure girls and guys act accordingly. We’re a high school and our community has certain expectations of what is appropriate.”
Erica’s mother, Darrie Deramous, however, is convinced her daughter’s dress was just fine.
“They said her dress length was short and that it was too low up at the top,” she said. “But that’s the way they are making them now.”
Darrie said she bought the $200 dress from a reputable prom Web site.
“Styles dictate what the males and females wear,” Jacksonville High School principal Mike Newell said.
Unlike Oxford, Jacksonville administrators do not have a specified dress code for their proms, but instead extends their general school dress code to the event.
“It just has to be something reasonable that doesn’t take away from the dignity of the event,” Newell said of prom dresses. “We really haven’t had an issue. For the most part, the dresses are reasonable.”
Nancy Parris, manager of Prom Dreams in Jacksonville, said many of the dress styles her business orders each year are dictated by the school dress codes in the area – a phenomenon many in her business in other states apparently do not have to face.
When Parris travels to regional conventions in Atlanta each year to purchase new prom dress styles, others in the business are routinely surprised when she tells them about the area’s dress codes.
“People from other stores in different states say, ‘you have a dress code?’” Parris said.
She said her business also orders dresses that do not conform to codes, since some schools in the area do not have specific prom attire restrictions.
“But all are a reasonable range in style,” she said. “And most parents wouldn’t have let their children out if they didn’t think the dresses were appropriate.”
Darrie said she was not opposed to the school having a dress code, but noted she was never notified about any type of restrictions.
Holladay, however, said the school mails a copy of the school’s prom dress code to parents a week before Christmas and then gives students another copy to take home in January.
According to the Oxford prom dress code, females must wear evening gowns or cocktail dresses. The dresses cannot be made of transparent material, there cannot be slits more than four inches above the knee and there must be no revealing neck lines or back lines. The dresses can be sleeveless or strapless, provided all body parts from the shoulder to the knee are covered. Girls also can’t wear two-piece dresses with the midriff showing or with removable material covering the cleavage area.
Males must wear tuxedos or suits. They cannot wear tennis shoes or oversized clothing.
Erica said that though her dress did not meet the code, her younger sister’s dress apparently did. Her sister was not punished, even though she wore a nearly identical dress of a different color to the prom, Erica said.
To Jerry Snow, principal at Piedmont High, Oxford’s dress code is appropriate. Snow said he has nearly identical restrictions for his school’s prom and his students are given ample time to learn the school’s dress code and inform administrators of what they will be wearing to the prom.
“They have plenty of opportunity to bring pictures of the dress,” he said.
Snow, who was an assistant principal for three years at Oxford, said the code was enacted because there were problems with female students wearing dresses that were seemingly too low-cut or exposed too much skin.
“We want the prom to be a dignified affair,” Snow said. “We want people to have pictures they would want to show to their grandparents or kids.”
Saks High principal Jody Whaley said he has his family consumer science teacher approve all prom dresses beforehand.
“They can’t be too revealing,” Whaley said. “Our teacher shows (students) how to make an alteration here or to put a pin there to make the dress meet the code.”
Contact staff writer Patrick McCreless at 256-235-3561