DEARBORN, Mich. (WJBK) - A Dearborn Catholic high school that suggested female students wear modesty ponchos at prom if their dresses are too revealing, is reversing course.
Divine Child High School no longer says the ponchos will be passed out in a letter to parents dated May 1.
Principal Eric Haley said the school's intention was never to make students feel uncomfortable - one day after a rash of criticism by some students and parents who had called the policy a form of body shaming.
Haley wrote that the poncho display with signs were meant as a reminder of the school's formal prom dress policy, which has remained the same for several years.
"To be clear: The poncho will not be passed out at prom," the letter said. "It was on display to proactively remind students of our dress code policies and eliminate any
confusion prior to this special event.
"We recognize that it has done the opposite for some members of our community and draws away from our goal of having students adhere to the dress code policy."
A spokesperson for the Detroit Catholic Archdiocese said Tuesday there were no ponchos distributed and the staff never intended to require students to wear the ponchos if they arrived at prom in attire that didn't adhere to the dress code.
"Come prom night, if necessary, staff may provide wraps and shawls, as they and other schools have done in the past,” Holly Fournier said in a statement.
The pink and patterned ponchos were previously on display inside the school with a note saying they would be handed to girls wearing dresses that violate the school's code.
A note attached to them read: "If your dress does not meet our formal dance dress requirements - no problem! We've got you covered - literally. This is our Modesty Poncho, which you'll be given at the door."
The note ends with a written smiley face :)
The formal dress policy for the May 12 prom outlines that dresses cannot have plunging necklines or "cutouts below the traditional bra line," even if covered with mesh fabric. The school forbids exposed cleavage and visible midriffs, and a teacher will check for compliance at the door.
Theology teacher Mary Pat O'Malley came up with the "modesty poncho" idea.
"We are trying focus on the inner beauty and not draw attention to something that doesn't need attention drawn to it," O'Malley told FOX 2 Monday.
She says the school put the ponchos on the mannequins in school to give girls enough time to get a dress that fits their parameters.
"It was really intended as a deterrent and a light hearted one at that," she said.
But a student who wished to remain anonymous said the note and display was upsetting.
"I do believe the school has gone too far with this," she said to FOX 2 on Monday. "As we walk into prom, we are to shake hands with all the teachers and if you walk through and a teacher deems your dress is inappropriate you will be given a poncho at the door."