Prom is one of those life events that you will remember forever. Or at least, as a teenager you think you will. Picking out the perfect dress, getting asked out by the right person, ordering the limo, getting your makeup just right – these are all such overwhelming decisions that require a lot of time and effort. Especially if you are homeschooled. All the more so, this one big night out is even more exciting and different. Clare Ettinger had it all planned out. The dress, the boy friend, the makeup and the ride – it was all planned to the T.
Clare and her boyfriend were very excited to attend the Richmond homeschool prom. It was themed a twilight in Paris and they couldn’t be more ready. They had been waiting a long time for this moment, just like most high schoolers would await their prom. They were thrilled to be able to actually partake in a a true high school experience and dance the night away with all of their friends. A prom is such a pivotal point in a teenagers life. It signifies the end of an era and that college and the future isn’t as far off as they imagined.
At 17 years old sometimes the drama and the high school gossip can feel a lot more all consuming and important than it really is. However, in this case the prom did not turn out anything like what either Clare or Jason ever imagined. Their feelings can’t merely be chalked up to teenage hormones and emotions. Clare was thrown out of her own prom by the Richmond prom chaperones because she was told that her dress was not appropriate enough and did not meet the strict dress code. But it didn’t stop only there, Clare was also reprimanded for dancing in a way that the school did not deem to be appropriate. Clare was thoroughly embarrassed and escorted out of the prob by security in front of the other 500 prom attendees. Clare definitely had a night that she will never forget. But not for the same reasons that most people cherish their high school memories.
Clare did not take this attack lying down. Clare stood her ground and did not let any one push her around. She was strong willed and even though she was embarrassed she shared her story with the world. Her moment was stolen from her and her memories of her high school will forever be tainted.
Clare Ettinger was escorted by her long time boy friend James Thompson, both 17 years old from Richmond, VA to their homeschool prom. Their emotions were running high, this was a symbol of the end of an era. Prom is the be all and end all for teenagers. Imagine, the tickets have been ordered, the suit and dress had been fitted, hours were spent on makeup and getting ready and the boutonniere was fastened. But it was all cut short when the couple got kicked out of their own prom.
An outfit that won’t be forgotten
Clare spent countless hours at her favorite department store Macy’s after checking out 6 different stores beforehand. She had saved up her hard earned money in order to afford the most perfect prom dress that she had her eye on for some time. She was so excited to show off her brand new silver and sparkly cocktail dress, totally unaware that the dress would actually push things over the edge for some of the attendees at the prom.
The dress test
It wasn’t as simple as finding a dress that Clare liked. She needed to find a dress that fell within her budget while still making her feel special. Clare worked hard for that prom money and she was going to spend it wisely. However, according to the prom’s stipulations Clare’s dress would have to pass the infamous ‘fingertip length test’ otherwise she would not be able to attend. So Clare took a deep breath and prayed that the hem of her dream dress would fall below her fingertips.
The invitation to the prom stated simply that there was a dress code to the prom for the homeschool students that wished to attend. Girls were told to dress in semi formal attire. However once a girls arms were relaxed, the fingertips would have to reach the hem of the dress in order to gain entrance inside the prom. Clare admits that it was a close call but she was confident that she passed the self made test before she purchased the dress.
The final test
Clare expressed her feelings on her sister’s blog explaining how excited she was right before the prom. She wrote that she was channeling her inner Mariyln Monore and she was all dolled up and ready to get the party started. It was so much more exciting for a homeschooled girl to go to prom, it was the first real high school experience and Clare was ready. Clare was nervous and decided to do one last minute dress test, however this time her dress was just a little bit short.
A close call
This was the result of the fingertip test. She had even tried in on with heals at the store before she bought it. She couldn’t have been more careful if she tried. But this time, the hem was dangerously close to her fingertips. Clare thought it would be good enough to get in through the doors of the prom, but she was nervous that after a few rounds of dancing the dress might slide up a bit. But as soon as she arrived at the Methodist Church she was confronted.
The local Methodist church that was hosting the prom immediately confronted Clare upon her arrival. She didn’t even get to see what the inside of the prom looked like before she was accosted. The organizer, Ann Duncan, stopped Clare in her tracks and told her right off the bat that Clare’s dress was simply just too short. To Ann’s surprise, Clare boldly questioned the organizer, she asked her rhetorically what the dress code was. Mrs. Duncan was not prepared for Clare to stand her ground.
Don’t test me
Just as Clare was hoping, Ann responded that the test was that the bottom of the dress needed to reach your fingertips. Clare then calmly explained to Mrs. Duncan that it only appeared like Clare’s dress did not pass this test because she had a curvy tall frame but in reality she really did pass the test. Ann however would not hear any of it. She told Clare that her dress was just simply too inappropriate and she would have to go home. Clare quickly understood that this wasn’t going to be simple.
Prom here I come
Clare was not about to turn around and head home with her tail between her legs that easily. She preformed the fingertip test for Mrs. Duncan in front of her, clearly portraying that she passed the test. Mrs. Duncan begrudgingly agreed and allowed her to enter the prom. But not without a warning first. Clare would have to make sure that her dress would stay exactly in place. It was already too short. Clare had yet to realize that the battle had only just begun.
Dancing the night away
Clare was finally granted access to enter and enjoy the prom with her boy friend and their other friends. She laughed to herself once she saw the girls on the dance floor. Their dresses were much shorter than hers. But she was too happy and excited to care. The prom was finally here and she just wanted to enjoy. After a few rounds of dancing, Clare and her friends noticed something interesting that was looming above her and her friends on the dance floor.
James, Clare’s boyfriend and date to the prom, later said that the prom was actually really awkward. There wasn’t that much dancing going on, people were just standing around and talking to each other on the dance floor instead of well, actually dancing! To James, the weirdest part was that the balcony looking down at the dance floor was packed with chaperones and parents eyeing the dance floor. James said that it felt like there were actually more chaperones that prom attendees!
Clare and her friends honestly felt like it was inappropriate for chaperones and dads to be assigned to stare at girls dancing and ensure that their skirts don’t ride up or that they don’t dance too inappropriately. The girls felt eyes all over them and all they wanted to do was let loose for a few hours and enjoy their much awaited prom night. They tried to ignore the chaperones, they couldn’t let them ruin their night. But all too soon, Mrs. Duncan was spotted strutting in Clare’s direction, eyes blazing.
Mrs. Duncan summoned Clare off the dance floor and sternly addressed Clare to a serious problem. Mrs. Duncan stated that some of the dads who were watching the girls dance complained to Mrs. Duncan that Clare’s dancing was much too inappropriate and would lead to the male attendees to think impure thoughts. Clare was outraged! She later wrote that she thought the ‘gross’ dads should be sent home for thinking impure thoughts about a teenage girl and definitely not the other way around.
Clare felt like Mrs. Duncan’s words were totally out of line. Telling someone that what they wear causes other people to have impure thoughts isn’t a far stretch from telling someone that they are to blame for dressing inappropriately and that is why they would got sexually harassed. The school clearly holds by the idea that the responsibility for a man’s thoughts and actions lies with Clare and every other woman who does not meet their standard of ‘appropriate.’
The fight to stay
Clare tried to reason with Mrs. Duncan to no avail. She explained that she wasn’t even dancing, they were just talking on the dance floor. She even preformed the fingertip test again for Mrs. Duncan. But nothing would sway Mrs. Duncan’s mind. She was adamant that Clare’s attire and dancing was simply not suitable for this prom. Clare’s friends jumped to her defense and also tried to convince Mrs. Duncan to let Clare stay. But Jason quickly stepped in and intervened, enough was enough.
Jason rushed to Clare’s defense. Understanding that there would be no changing of Mrs. Duncan’s mind, he told Mrs. Duncan that if she was to kick Clare out then they would all leave with her. He claimed that Mrs. Duncan would need to refund all of their tickets first. Jason and Clare’s friends demanded their 25 dollars returned before they would leave the prom. But Clare had a better idea. 25 Dollars was just not going to cover the embarrassment and trauma that Mrs. Duncan and the chaperones caused.
Getting out of hand
James even tried to get the prom manager to help intervene and mediate the situation. The discussion was getting more heated with every minute passing and Mrs. Duncan was getting even more stubborn. She was not willing to listen to reason. Mrs. Duncan quickly became exasperated and repeatedly yelled back at the students that she would not debate this further. Finally, Mrs. Duncan snapped and called upon an additional chaperone to help her end this discussion once and for all.
Time for revenge
Mrs. Duncan even called security to escort Clare, Jason and their friends off the premises. Clare was embarrassed and hurt, she was being thrown out of her own prom. She felt abused. It was not her fault that she didn’t look like most teenagers, she closer resembled a woman with long legs and a curvaceous body. She was taught that night that she was responsible for the thoughts and drives of the men around her and she should dress appropriately for their convenience. So Clare hatched her plan of revenge.
Through teary eyes, a confused Clare turned to the security guard who was escorting them off the premises. She asked him if he thought her dress was too short or if her dancing was not appropriate. The security guard responded that he thought that Clare didn’t deserve to get kicked out of the prom, but unfortunately it wasn’t his call to make. Despite Mrs. Duncan’s promise, only Clare got a refund out of all of her friends and boy friend who left the dance with her.
To the internet!
Clare wanted justice. She left the prom feeling embarrassed, violated and upset. She didn’t deserve this punishment and she was ready to let the world know about the injustice the chaperones of the Richmond prom inflicted on her. So Clare went to the internet and wrote her heart out. She wanted everyone to know exactly how she was mistreated. And boy did the women of the internet hear her loud and clear. Clare did not expect to reach that many people or to get the response that she did.
Clare’s post went viral and inspired her readers to take action. Her readers went to the Richmond Homeschool Prom page and wrote comments on their page in Clare’s defense. They were appalled that the prom defended the crude thoughts of the older men rather than the innocent young girl, merely going to the party looking for a fun and safe evening. The Richmond Homeschool Prom responded by deleting the negative posts. But it seemed like the posts got too out of hand because they later shut down the hole facebook home page altogether.
Two sides to every story
Clare went further and even wrote a blog about the violation that she underwent. She said that she felt walked all over and ostracized. She could not believe that her choice of clothing would determine the level of respect that the chaperones gave her. However, there are two sides to every story and Mrs. Duncan told hers to CBS news. Mrs. Duncan didn’t agree with anything that Clare had to say, her version of the events were entirely different.
Mrs. Duncan’s response
Mrs. Duncan stood her ground and defended her decision. She agreed with Clare that while Clare’s dress was sufficiently long enough in order to be allowed to enter the prom, her dress got shorter through out the night to the point that the dress was barely covering her behind when Mrs. Duncan summoned her over to kick her out of the prom. Mrs. Duncan went further and said that she didn’t believe Clare’s claims that the dads were staring at her dance because there were 500 kids at the dance.
An objective third party
Another prom attendee named Callie Hobbs corroborated Clare’s story, she said there were quite a few couples making out on the dance floor and even more people grinding. However, Callie did say that she also saw Clare grinding as well and agreed with the chaperones decision that if she broke the rules she deserves to get kicked out. But Clare continues to defend herself. If theres a rule in place, then it needs to be enforced equally. Clare responded to Mrs. Duncan by making a video of her and Jason’s version of events.
Born this way
In Clare and Jason’s video they explained that Clare was singled out amongst the 500 prom goers. Mrs. Duncan even said herself when she threw them out of the prom that the dads were complaining about Clare’s dancing and dress. Clare is not just doing this for herself. she says that this message is for all the girls built like Clare. The ones that look more mature than they are, who’s legs are longer than other peoples so it looks like their dress is shorter, but it’s just an illusion.
I don’t have a problem, you do
Clare continued in thevideo that she was sick and tired of the slut-shaming. Just because she wore a tight sparkly dress does not mean that older men and fathers have the right to lust over her and blame her for their inappropriate thoughts. Some girls will always have cleavage when they bend over, because that is just how their bodies are. She claims that if people think her dress is the problem, then she thinks that people who think like that are actually the ones with the problem.
Clair was surprised and comforted by the overwhelming amount of support that she received. Her video and blog has gone viral and she is proud of herself for standing up for what she believed. Despite the outpouring of response over the internet, the Richmond Homeschool Prom has still not reached out to Clare or her friends. Her boyfriend Jason and their friends still have not received the refund of their tickets that they were promised by Mrs. Duncan.
Clare still stands by her posts and the way she responded to Mrs. Duncan and the rest of the chaperones. She hopes that the attention that her story got through out the web will lead to parents and schools tor really think about their dress codes and policies. She hopes that no one will have to go through the same embarrassment or feel as violated as she did by a school ever again. This discussion is food for thought for many parents and administrators all around the world.
Girls shop for their dream dresses not only for prom but for yearly school dances and many other school sanctioned events. A teenage girl can find dresses that are not age appropriate and makes them seem a lot older than they are. But is it up to the school to stop this or the parents? Where is the line between appropriate and inappropriate? Especially when a dress can look extremely over sexualized on one girl who has matured faster while it could look perfectly modest on another girl.