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STANSBURY PARK — Stansbury High School will hold a "replacement dance" and will make changes to its dress code following Saturday's homecoming dance where dozens of teens were sent home because of their attire, the school's principal said.
"As much as we want to have a certain level of appropriateness and reasonableness, there was never any intention for people to leave heartbroken and disgruntled and confused and frustrated," principal Kendall Topham said Monday. "So that apology needed to happen and it did happen."
Topham said administrators had not settled on a date yet for the replacement formal dance.
Many students showed up to school Monday in their prom dresses, outraged that they were told to leave the dance. Though school administrators said only a couple dozen girls were rejected at the door because of their attire, students estimated hundreds never ended up attending.
"It was just utter shock at first," said Amber Hesleph. "Here we are spending all this time and everything and then we get there and they just turn us away. It's just kind of depressing."
Donna Hesleph, Amber's mom, also said the outcome of the dance for many students was "very sad." "If you're going to arbitrarily paint scarlet letters all over children, then something has to change," Hesleph said.
Erika Alvey was Stansbury High's homecoming queen. She was also asked to leave Saturday because of her dress. "They told me that it was showing my knees so therefore it was too short, and in order to get into the dance I needed to put on leggings," Alvey said. "So I did and I got back in the dance, but that was before I realized that this thing was going to turn into such a big issue."
Topham said information about the dress code was included on flyers prior to the dance, and information is posted on the school's website. A reminder on the site said "dresses should be at or near knee length." The reminder also described a ban on "plunging necklines," low-cut backs and slits in gowns that run higher than the knee. Still, Topham said it appeared the code was too ambiguous and left too much for interpretation, and administrators would make changes to it.
"It's been our dress standard in our previous handbooks but the vagueness seemed to come to the surface this time and, again, it needs to be addressed and we'll get it fixed."
Students earlier in the day were even circulating a petition calling on the school to allow student input in the dress code, among other things.
"Two inches above the knee is not immodest at all," Katelyn Robinson said.
The Facebook page, "Stansbury High Homecoming Spirit Massacre" had amassed more than 2,700 likes by midday Monday, and included pictures of various students in dresses that were deemed to be unacceptable.
Students and parents left dozens of comments on the Facebook page. Some said they were outraged. Many of the girls and their parents feel that the dresses followed the code "at or near knee length," and that they were unfairly judged and kicked out.
Topham met with students by class, and apologized. It was unclear if the apology halted students in their efforts to lobby the school district on the matter.
"I just think it's kind of sad that's how most of my classmates have to remember their last homecoming," Alvey said.
Contributing: Shara Park