Principal Draws Backlash for Requiring Students to Send Photos of Prom Dresses for Approval

A Louisiana high school principal has received mixed reactions after implementing a prom policy that requires female students to get their dresses pre-approved before the big dance.

Southwood High School Principal Dr. Kim Pendleton issued a text message to students informing all girls that they’d have to send in a photo of their dress to her in order to have it OK’d, according to NBC affiliate KTAL.

Pendleton warned that any dresses showing “excess cleavage or skin” would not be allowed, and that the rules also applied for male students bringing dates from a different school.

“As you begin shopping for your attire, please make sure you do not purchase any clothes that are sheer or revealing in any manner,” the text reportedly read. “Prior to purchasing your outfit, I will need you to send me a picture of you in the outfit… with your name and grade. Once I approve the outfit, you may purchase it.”

Pendleton added that students would only be allowed into prom wearing a pre-approved dress.

Jakarius Simpson, whose sister is a junior at Southwood, told KTAL that he thought the policy was “just totally wrong.”

“It should be the parents’ say-so of the kid’s approval instead of the principal,” he said.

Albert Bryant, however, who has a granddaughter at the school, told the outlet he understood the intentions behind the policy.

“As a grandparent, I’m kind of from the old school, back in the day,” he said. “I can understand because there are some young ladies that are raising themselves more or less, and they can get a little bit provocative.”

Neither Caddo Parish Public Schools nor Pendleton responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment, but in a statement to KTAL, the school district called the policy a “proactive approach.”

“It is a school-level decision for all formal dress to be approved prior to the event,” the statement read. “Southwood will host an assembly for students only to address dress code guidelines and give an opportunity to raise questions and concerns.”

Pendleton, meanwhile, told NBC News in a statement that the move came following feedback from several staff members and parents who expressed concern over the possibility of inappropriate outfits at events hosted by the school.

“In communicating the guidelines for appropriate conduct and dress, which are similar to what schools and districts require across the country, a decision was made to proactively work with families to ensure parents would not spend money on a dress which would be turned away for being inappropriate,” the statement read.

Pendleton added that since sending the text, she had yet to reject any dresses sent her way, and that she’d received positive feedback from “parents who are proud of the school for taking a stand to ensure prom is an encouraging, wholesome event.”

The controversial policy inspired both support and vitriol on social media.

“The principal should only put a dress code in place and deny entry to those who don’t abide, but needing a picture to approve the prom outfit is absurd!!!” one Twitter user wrote.

“Unless she[‘s] buying every young lady[‘s] prom dress she does [not] have a say,” another wrote. “[S]he need[s] to stay in her lane as a principal, not a parent.”

Others on Facebook, however, understood the goal.

“Makes more sense to me rather than spending the money on it just to be sent home,” one user wrote.

“Honestly, the principal/school can’t win. There is a dress code, but most girls/parents choose not to follow it. The principal is the bad guy for the picture rule but would catch hell for sending them home at the door for not following dress code after purchasing tickets. Educators can’t win when parents choose not to parent and let their kids make bad choices,” wrote another.

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