Schools Should Not Hold Tradition Higher than Acceptance


Aniya Wolf stops for an interview with ABC27 News outside of Bishop McDevitt’s prom after being kicked out. Wolf said a school official took her aside and threatened to call the police if she did not leave. (Photo courtesy of ABC27 News)

By: Cara McErlean

When teenagers envision prom, they often imagine a perfect night filled with music, shining lights, and good friends. They might imagine a room full of corsages, beautiful dresses, and dapper suits.

But few teenagers could ever imagine being kicked out.

On May 6, 2016, junior Aniya Wolf was thrown out of Bishop McDevitt’s prom because she was wearing a suit.

According to ABC 27 News, Wolf was approached by a school official at the prom that told her she was going to call the police since Wolf was in violation of the dress code. The dress code, in question, was a last minute email sent by the school that explained girls must wear dresses to prom. However, Wolf received this email notice the Friday before prom, after she had already bought a new suit for the occasion. So Wolf decided to take a chance and wear it anyway.

Bishop McDevitt has since released an official statement on its Facebook declaring that students were warned of the dress code earlier in the year. They wrote, “Bishop McDevitt will continue to practice acceptance and love for all of our students. They are tremendous young men and women. We simply ask that they follow the rules that we have put into place.”

If McDevitt really was concerned with “practicing love and acceptance” for all of their students, they would not have singled out and humiliated a student for going against the norm.

By kicking out Wolf, McDevitt sent a clear message- they will not accept students who don’t conform to their ideals.

It is true that McDevitt was within their rights when they banned Wolf. As a private Catholic school, they are allowed to create and enforce whatever rules they want. But while their decision to kick out Wolf might have been legally A-OK, it showed the school’s clear personal bias against girls like Wolf. For a school that claims to practice “love and acceptance,” McDevitt appears to be quite unwilling to accept students who do not conform to their traditional gender roles. In the society we live in today, appearance norms are being brushed aside for a more progressive view of gender. Wolf’s suit was not a social or political statement, it was simply a matter of what made her feel comfortable. And on a night that is supposed to be a magical end to a high school career, student should be allowed to feel comfortable.

Because of arbitrary rules, Wolf was prevented from being herself; Wolf said that the school’s decision to kick her out of prom made her feel like a “mistake.” That just shows how harmful being rejected by your own school can be, and how important it is for kids to feel accepted in their own skin.

Although the Catholic school may not agree with every aspect of Wolf’s life, her wearing a suit was not an affront to the religion. Wolf’s suit was not inappropriate, it was not scandalous, and it was not hurting anyone.

Fashion is a way to express oneself, especially in the chaotic high school years. Hershey High School, I ask that you will never let tradition get in the way of providing a safe environment for all students, no matter what they wear.