Readington NJ Strapless Gown Kerfuffle Turns Into a Social Media Story

The strange case of the battle over strapless gowns at a Readington New Jersey middle school dance now has a resolution, and a social media angle. It was bound to happen – it seems like all stories have a social media angle these days.

strapless-dressThe Readington middle school principal, Sharon Moffat, originally announced that strapless gowns would be banned because in her words, they would cause a “distraction” for the boys.

Readington parents and students were up in arms about the ruling, as well as the possibly sexist idea of boys being distracted by scantily clad girls. One parent, Charlotte Nijenhuis, in an interview after the initial decision was quoted as saying:

(the policy is) “arbitrary and capricious and a violation of every girl’s fundamental rights afforded by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.”

Strong words.

In another follow up article last month, Reuters wrote:

At least one student, Claudine Nijenhuis, 14, said she planned to defy the ban and press her right to bare arms.

“Basically by saying ‘it distracts the boys’ you’re also saying that it is our fault on how they control their own behavior,” the teenager wrote in a letter to the principal. “I will still be attending the dinner dance function, but I will also be wearing a dress with no straps.”

The situation continued to spiral out of control. In the wake of the debate, the principal chose to cancel a different dance last month because of a threatening email she received over the strapless dress ban. Details of the threat were not released.

Last night the Readington School Board met, determined to resolve the matter. After two tied votes, the 8-person board passed a resolution which included a:

compromise outlined by Mrs. Moffat, that includes the addition of at least a single or clear or spaghetti strap to reduce the risk of wardrobe malfunction.

“It is the board’s position that the risk of a wardrobe mishap — either intentional or unintentional — and the possibility of the dissemination of such an occurrence through social media should be mitigated,” board member Laura Simon said in a prepared statement.

There is the social media angle from and center. Is social media even part of the problem in this case, or a convenient scapegoat when someone wants to argue for a different outcome by citing a plausible risk? Social media is not the problem.

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