Those were the exact questions Tony Alarcon was asking himself one sunny morning, which started off as any other day but turned into one that would change his world (and others’) for good.
Educating our kids is hard work, let alone educating our teenagers. However, when reality hits and you find yourself trying to enlighten those responsible for your child's education, the rules of the game change.
Never in his life did Tony believe that we would have to go through the shame, embarrassment, and lack of understanding confronting his daughter's school. This could have happened to any of us.
Summer in the City
On that morning, it was hitting 90 degrees. It was hotter than any other morning and Tony's daughter was getting ready for school. Raymond J. Fisher school had no uniform and the kids were free to wear whatever they wanted.
Having said that, the school did have a dress code, and there were boundaries that had to be respected. Tony's daughter wasn't prepared to suffer in hot and suffocating garments and she put on her light and breathable clothes.
Demetra, Tony's daughter, was a regular teen with a regular lifestyle. Her father, on the other hand, was of the overprotective kind. He was a smooth talker that could get his own way almost always.
When it came to his relationship with Demetra, it was more difficult than any other job he had. Being a real estate agent and a banker, one tends to pick up on communication skills. However, with Demetra those skills were useless.
Demetra's day started and before the first lesson began, she was already called up by her teacher. Her teacher made her stand in front of her class, putting her in a situation she has never been in before.
She wasn't the first. Apparently, Demetra'a teacher had a reputation for embarrassing the kids, but never in her life did Demetra feel so unsettled and troubled.
A Casual Outfit
What happened next was about to shock Demetra. When she left for school that morning, she didn't see anything wrong with what she was wearing.
It was comfortable and suited the weather outside, and in her eye, respected the school's dress code. The fact that her father approved of what she was wearing only made her feel more confident and assured. Well, her teacher thought otherwise.
An Innocent Blue Dress
Although Demetra was a teenager, she wasn't a rebel. She was a regular girl who never thought there was anything wrong with her blue romper. All she wanted was to go through the extremely hot day in comfort.
She wasn't trying to put on inappropriate clothes, she wasn't trying to draw attention, and the last thing she wasn't trying to do is get into trouble over something so ridiculous as what was about to happen.
From standing in front of her class and being ashamed, this episode escalated into the talk of the day. The news of what had happened roared out of the school's grounds and within no time turned into headlines.
Demetra's outfit was the only thing people were talking about. She became the center of attention, and not for good reasons.
Just Like All the Rest
For those who hadn't seen Demetra that day, the question of what was she wearing didn't leave them at ease. What could she have put on that made so much noise?
Demetra wasn't known as a troublemaker, and the thought of her wearing something so outrageous and so different than what the other girls wore was difficult to comprehend.
A Matter of Perspective
The humiliation Demetra went through would scar her for life, and for what? For one garment that in her eyes had nothing wrong?
That morning, Demetra wasn't, nor was her father, prepared for the way this story was about to evolve. The unexpected ways of life were about to knock on their door.
The Beginning of the End
The stand of humiliation in front of the entire class was only the beginning. Before realizing the situation she was in, Demetra was sent to the principal's office.
The principal scanned Demetra's outfit. If the teacher didn't shame her enough, then the principal filled in the gaps and completed the job. As far as Demetra was concerned, this was as bad as it could get.
Calling Her Dad
The principal took no spare time and called Demetra's father into his office. What he didn't know, is that he would regret calling Tony for the rest of his life.
The principal gave Tony two options. Demetra could go home and change, or Tony could bring to the school something else for Demetra to wear.
Being Smart, Not Strong
Tony couldn't believe what he was hearing. He took a deep breath and decided that being the smart guy, would benefit him more than being the strong guy.
He was going to get to the bottom of this. However, first things first. He went home to pick out a new and appropriate outfit for Demera to wear.
Denim That Caused a Racket
While Tony and the principal were waiting in the office, Demetra went to put on the pair of denim shorts and tank top her father brought.
To the amazement of them all, the principal took one look at Demetra and surprisingly said that unfortunately, what Demetra has on is still unacceptable and cannot be worn within the school's walls.
Tony's temper was rising and became as hot as the temperatures outside. How were a pair of denim shorts and a simple tank top improper? What was Demetra revealing that was off boundaries?
Demetra was dressed in clothes any other teen would wear on such a hot summer's day. Tony was unwilling to accept this. At this time, Demetra was shocked and kept quiet.
She Was the Only One
Tony was considered a strict father. He wouldn't allow his daughter many things other girls her age could do. He found it hard to believe that when it came to dressing codes, he was more open-minded than others. He was not going to give up on this.
There was no intention for him to allow the school to shame his daughter so bad, and become part of the corridor's gossip. He knew there was more to this than just Demetra wearing inappropriate clothing and he was about to find out what it was.
The Fingertip Test
The principal excused the drama by saying that Demetra was not respecting 'the fingertip test' — the girl's clothes were shorter than the reach of her fingertips.
Tony wouldn't give the principal the benefit of the doubt and wasn't willing to accept his justification. Tony was someone who knew how to spot a bargain, but this was something he wasn't willing to buy.
Just a Regular Day
Every morning Tony would give Demetra a lift to school and see girls, on a regular basis, wearing clothes as short as what his daughter wore that day.
Why was his daughter singled out? Why wasn't she treated like all other students and put through such an embarrassing and awkward situation?
Tony Was Not Giving Up
Tony confronted the principal. He was determined in receiving a good enough reason for what had happened, and the 'fingertip test' was an insufficient excuse.
The principal realized he had no choice and just said it as it was. "It's because of the behavior of some boys in her class", the principal admitted
He Couldn't Believe His Ears
"Because of what?" Tony couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Yes, Demetra was being mistreated following the behavior of some boys in her class".
The principal acknowledged Tony's reaction and knew he blew it. He realized he took the wrong turn and now he had Demetra's father to confront. This was going to be harder than dealing with a too-short dress.
A Bunch of Teenagers
Tony wouldn't allow a bunch of distracted teenagers to decide what Demetra could or couldn't wear. And not only that — he wouldn't let them be the cause of her being shamed in front of the entire class.
The teacher started what the principal managed to finish. However, Tony was nowhere near ending this war. He was up for a fight.
He Was Going All the Way
Not only was Tony prepared to do anything for his daughter as she was traumatized and put to shame, but he was willing to take this all the way and make a change.
He was going to fight for what he believed in. He knew the school's staff crossed many red lines, at the expense of his daughter, and he was about to put things back in place.
He Insisted She Changed
Even after revealing the truth to Tony, the principal still insisted on Demetra changing her cloth. She could cover up with a pair of sweatpants or she could go home and change completely.
The boys were getting distracted, but Tony was planning on giving those boys (and the school's principal) something else to be concerned about.
A Piece of Her Mind
Up until this point, Demetra kept quiet and her father was responsible for all the talking. It was now her turn to share a piece of her mind. And what a sharp and spicy mind she had.
Demetra didn't understand why were the girls the only ones being enforced by the school's dress code. Why boys who wore hats, which were band, weren't asked to take them off? Because no girl was distracted by the hats?
An Unfair World
There was no other word to use but discrimination. The girls were ruled out while the boys could get away with anything.
Tony tried to stay calm, however, the more he thought about it and the more thing sank in, the more frustrated he got about what was happening in his daughter's school.
A Public Opinion
Tony wasn't wasting any time. He asked girls around the school what they thought about the dress code, and unsurprisingly, they unanimously felt it was all unfair.
Girls shouldn't suffer in the classrooms just because the boys were distracted by a bit of leg, and no one can expect anyone to cover up when the temperatures outside are as high as they are. The situation was unreasonable.
Local News Alert
With that, Tony went another step forward. The girl's opinions and feelings were good but weren't enough. He decided to take it all the way and managed to get an interview on local news channel.
He prepared all of his answers. No one was going to catch him by surprise. Tony was prepared to shout out his beliefs and assure that in the future no other girl experiences what his darling Demetra had to go through.
He told the media channels that interviewed him, that he thinks that the parents are the ones who should approve their children's clothing and not the school. If the parents felt comfortable with what their kids wore, the school should have no concerns.
School administrations are usually stricter than parents and parents in most cases are more demanding than their kids, so in this way, they will archive balance. A good place situated in the middle.
Tony's next step was about to amaze the principal, the students, and their parents. He was about to suggest a new dress code that would respect the school yet provide the kids some reasonable freedom.
Spaghetti straps were out, but shorts were in. No revealing underwear and no midriff whatsoever. This was only the beginning of the school uniform revolution.
Yay or Nay
If this was your kid's school, would you be supportive of the change? Most parents contributed in any way they could, however, some parents were against these changes and feared what could have been the outcome of such freedom.
They didn't agree with girls being objectified just because of what they were wearing. However, they were concerned that if kids were given the freedom to choose what to wear, sooner or later it would lead to chaos.
Making a Change
Soon enough, parents on both sides were fighting the battle. Those who were for the new changes and those who weren't. No one was left on the sidelines and everyone was taking part, and longing to help make a change.
Was Tony's fight for freedom a success? Did the girls end up gaining their freedom of choice? Only time will tell. However, Demetra wasn't the only one who went through a journey of humiliation and shame because of what she wore.
When Clare was 17, she was the center of attention on her prom night, and not because she was prom queen. She was singled out and turned into the joke of the evening following how the school believed there was something wrong with her dress.
You can only imagine how thrilled Clare was before one of the most exciting nights of her life, and how easily, the school's administration managed to ruin it all for her.
The Prom Night
She was one of the first ones to purchase tickets and was getting her dress ready weeks before the prom night. It was the perfect dress. A silver gown adorned with glitter, just what she always dreamed of. Clare was aware of the school's rules and regulations, and didn't ignore the fact that her dress had to pass the 'fingertip test'.
It was even stated on the prom invitation, so there was no room for ignorance. Clare's dress was below her fingertips and passed the test. Not even in her wildest nightmares, could she imagine her dress causing so much rattle and chaos the way it did.
The Perfect Length
While Clare was getting ready for her prom, she was about to discover something she wasn't expecting. When she first bought the dress it was the perfect length, but now, it seemed that it failed to pass the test. It wasn't that much shorter, however — exactly at the line of her fingertips.
She wasn't sure if to play dumb and ignore the fact that her dress looked too short or to embrace plan B and think of something else to wear. The last thing she wanted was to say farewell to her beautiful silver and glittering, (now almost mini) dress.
A Bad Entrance
As Clare arrived at the prom, she was immediately approached by one of the organizers, and she immediately commented on the length of Clare's dress. She knew her outfit was borderline, however, she never imagined someone commenting just minutes after arriving.
She innocently asked the organizer to go over the dress code rules with her, just so she could prove that her dress was still within limits.
Ann Duncan, one of the organizers of the event, was determined to have Clare change her dress. Clare explained that no rules were broken and that as her legs are so long, they give the impression that the dress is too short.
The dress complied with the guidelines, it wasn't too short, and if someone else were to wear it, it probably wouldn't look as long as it was.
Ann Wasn't Alone
Clare showed Ann that the dress was, in fact, an appropriate length, and Ann, with no other option, had to let Clare join the prom party. This was not the end of her troubles.
If Clare thought that was the end of the night's episode, she had another thing coming as Ann wasn't the only one to make Clare's life difficult that evening.
Almost as Long as Hers
As Clare entered the main dance room, she noticed several girls in beautiful prom dresses, some if not all, as short (or as long) as hers. This made her laugh, however, more surprises were waiting for her just around the corner.
Apparently, the dancing room had more chaperones than ever before. If in previous years, you could count on one hand the number of parents patrolling the dance floor, now there were almost as many chaperons as students.
Watching From Above
The chaperone fathers were standing on balconies, viewing the dancing students from above. This phenomenon made many of the girls feel very uncomfortable.
The fact that older men, fathers of class friends, stared at them from above felt awkward and discomfiting. What was going on?
The parents (mainly dads) who volunteered to chaperone that night were all there for one purpose. They all wanted to assure that no one broke the dress code boundaries and that all dresses pass the fingertip test.
Ten minutes hadn't gone by, and Ann was on the dance floor looking for Clare. She grabbed her and excused her actions by saying, that the chaperones think she is dancing inappropriately and in a provocative manner.
The chaperones weren't really worried about Clare's dancing. They were more concerned about their own sons, being led to thinking unpure thoughts. Clare couldn't believe what she was hearing.
Telling someone that was like blaming someone for bad things that happened to them or blaming a wife for her abusive husband. This was more than what Clare could take.
A Friend in Trouble
So many things upset Clare that night, and the fact that she wasn't even dancing when Anne approached her, was one of them. Luckily Clare's friends backed her up. Clare's boyfriend was there too. He realized how she was struggling to convince Ann that her dress was an appropriate length, and knew he had to be there for her.
He was not going to let Ann kick Clare out of the prom and ruin her evening. If Clare had to leave, then everyone was going to join her and leave. Buy they would not leave quietly.
A Collective Punishment
They decided, that if Clare's prom night was about to be ruined, then everyone's night was going to be ruined. Including the organizers. They planned to ask for a ticket refund and were not going to take no for an answer. For Clare however, this wasn't enough.
Clare felt so embarrassed and ashamed, that simply getting her money back wasn't going to satisfy her. She did nothing wrong and she had no intention to keep her mouth shut.
Guilty of Nothing
Clare was waiting for this evening her entire life. How upsetting must it have been for her, that for no reason at all, her fairytale dream night turned into a nightmare? She was treated like a criminal.
Clare's boyfriend, James, asked to speak to the person in charge of the prom. Ann, one of the organizers, didn't like this at all and decided to call for one of the chaperones, just so she had someone on her side.
A Hiden Message
“I have long legs and I was wearing a sparkly dress, I didn’t look like most of the 13-15-year-old girls there, I looked like a woman. I am so tired of people who abuse their power to make women feel violated and ashamed.”
Was it Clare's responsibility to control other people's beliefs? Was the way she chose to move her body causing men to think unaccepted thoughts? What message was this school teaching its pupils?
Calmly Escorted Out
Shocked as they were, Clare and her friends were forced out of the dancing room, and out of the school by Ann, who then called security. Clare had never felt so mortified in her life.
She got the security guard involved and asked for his opinion. He said that he didn't see anything wrong with what she wore, however, it wasn't his call. The story doesn't end here.
They walked out of the prom frustrated and feeling terribly vulnerable. Clare was about to make her personal story public and decided to take matters online.
She felt that women all over the world should hear about what she went through and that things must change, if not for her then for other girls. She had a lot to say, and the world was about to hear it.
Saying It all Upfront
After Clare's story went online, people's opinions were shared on the school's online page. They expressed their displeasure with what has happened and spared no words.
Ann, the one responsible for Clare's expulsion, didn't waste any time and gave her comments in a CBS News interview. She had to give her side of the story, but how was she going to get away with this one?
Ann explained that at first, the dress was an appropriate length, however, seemed shorter due to the material it was made of. Besides that, she didn't recall the chaperones commenting on her dancing.
Clare didn't change her version of the story and insisted that what she said happened, indeed happened. In response to Ann's declaration, Clare released a video.
Clare Was Going Live
She recorded herself on video, explaining that during the prom night there were several couples making out on the dance floor, and some serious dancing was going on there. And with all that, she was the only one who was told off and asked to leave.
Why was she differentiated? There must have been another reason for her being singled out, however, she had no idea what it was.
Clare had a much more mature body than most 17-year-old girls despite being younger. She was feminine and voluptuous, which is probably what made her stand out. There was no other reason she could think of, that made the chaperones notice her and eventually make the organizers kick her out.
In that case, Clare felt she must send a message to all those girls out there who suffer like her and can never find a decent pair of jeans that fit. She wrote to all the long-legged girls out there.
She expressed her feelings and wrote that unfortunately, young girls will forever be misunderstood no matter how tall or short they are. That the problem is not with the length of the dress, but with those who measure it.
That the problems and issues are not really noticed until someone puts a spotlight on them, and sometimes, unfortunately, people go out of their way to do so.
An Open Ending
Until this day, Clare's school hasn't contacted her or responded to her video and posts. And despite Ann's promises, no one except for Clare has received a refund for their ticket.
Clair hopes her personal story will make schools across the country reconsider their dress code, and realize that not everything is black or white. This holds a mirror onto society, asking if categorizing teenage girls in such a way, is something to be considered.