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New Jersey parents demand girls' right to bare arm — in strapless dresses

April 24, 2013 at 10:12 AM ET

Video: TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb discuss a New Jersey school’s decision to ban girls from wearing strapless dresses to a middle school dance so they won’t “distract” the boys. Hoda says she think it’s a strange decision, and KLG says you can wear a strapless dress without looking trashy.

A New Jersey principal's ban on strapless dresses at a junior high school dance because they would be "distracting" to boys has enraged parents, who called on Tuesday for its reversal on the grounds it violates their daughters' constitutional rights.

The dress code shreds the 14th Amendment right to equal protection since girls for the past six years have been wearing sleeveless fashions to the dance at Readington Middle School in Readington Township, New Jersey, said parent Charlotte Nijenhuis.

Parents petitioned the school board on Tuesday to overturn the policy before the June 12th dance.

The school's principal, Sharon Moffat, said in a letter last month that a "dress with straps" was the only style that would be allowed.

Nijenhuis said she called Moffat to ask why strapless dresses had been forbidden. "She told me, ‘It is because it's distracting to boys and inappropriate','" Nijenhuis said.

Moffat did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Students Sarah Lachenmayr (L), Samantha Rieche (C) and her mother Anne Rieche arrive to attend a school board meeting in Readington Township, New Jersey, April 23, 2013.
Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
Students Sarah Lachenmayr (L), Samantha Rieche (C) and her mother Anne Rieche arrive to attend a school board meeting in Readington Township, New Jersey, April 23, 2013.

Another parent, Michelle D'Amico, said she was "livid" that her 14-year-old daughter was being prevented from wearing the same strapless dress that her older daughter had worn six years ago. "It's completely unjust," D'Amico said.

The Readington Township School District said in a statement on Tuesday that it "has a policy regarding dress code which is being universally applied to the school day and school events. We regret that a small number of families are upset by this and we welcome their input and communication."

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."

Copyright 2014 Thomson Reuters.

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