Playing out on social media as a controversy, a prom dress policy at Harlan County High School (HCHS) began as a “funny” posted by a student.
At a meeting of the HCHS Site Based Decision Making Council on Tuesday, Tara Day, owner and operator of Perfect Ten in Harlan, asked council members if school management had disapproved prom dresses she now has in layaway at her place of business after she read Facebook posts from students saying they had.
“I had girls coming into the store in complete panic mode,” said Day. “I figured it had just been blown out of proportion… because the dresses the girls are choosing this year are very elegant and appropriate.”
Council Chair and HCHS Principal Edna Burkhart said one of the students had told her she posted a “funny” on Facebook and didn’t realize “everyone would jump on it.”
“She posted something like I was going to make all the girls wear turtlenecks or something to the prom,” said Burkhart. “It was over reaction to a comment. All it takes is one comment on Facebook to throw the whole county in disarray. I met with junior and senior girls and read them our policy. I talked to them about things they’d have to adhere to at the prom. I didn’t talk to the boys, because we talked about prom dresses.”
Burkhart said she was asked by Annissa Alred, prom coordinator, to “OK” the prom dresses which will be worn to the 2014 prom because “she’d rather not.” Burkhart added assistant principals Cathy Napier and Leanne Huff were also “OK’ing dresses.”
“I’ve not run across any problems, I’ve OK’d all the dresses that have come through,” said Burkhart. “I didn’t think any of them were inappropriate. I didn’t see any I wouldn’t let one of my daughters wear.”
Burkhart said a prom policy has been in place at the school since 2010. Burkhart added she had looked at approximately 80 prom dresses from HCHS girls and approved all of them.
“I think how one part of the policy is written is making it hard for the girls to find a dress,” said Burkhart. “The ones I have OK’d — holes, cutouts and plunging necklines — that’s going to be on all prom dresses you find. What I told the girls is if it’s to the extreme we will discuss it.”
Burkhart suggested to council members that number seven of the prom policy, which states, “students are expected to dress appropriately for the prom. No two-piece dresses are allowed. No discontinuity (holes, cut-outs, plunging necklines) that would reveal torso is allowed,” be taken out or reworded.
“I feel like what we’re doing (OK’ing dresses) is for the girls’ protection,” said Burkhart. “You don’t want these girls getting to the prom and someone saying your dress is inappropriate and you need to leave. I don’t want to see that happen… and, with prior approval from the administration, it won’t.”
Burkhart said she is keeping names of those approved and she will be in attendance at the prom making sure only approved dresses are worn.
“If one comes in I’ll know if it has been approved or not,” said Burkhart. “If a girl does that she’ll be in danger of breaking her agreement. I don’t think our girls will do that.”
Council agreed to reword the policy and make those changes at the next meeting.
In other action, council reviewed and discussed the prom finance policy with Burkhart saying the prom will be financed and paid for entirely from a standard formula of 325 paying students at $50 per ticket, bringing the entire cost for the prom at $16,250.
She said the prom cost “shall not exceed the amount taken in from ticket sales.”
“Any and all additional costs must be made up from fundraising and donations,” said Burkhart. “However, no expense above $16,250 may be incurred without the approval of the site based decision making council in a special session.”
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, or on Twitter @Nola_hde