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School apologizes after measuring girls' dresses at homecoming dance

Parents at a high school in Kentucky were upset after some girls were turned away from their homecoming dance over the length of their dresses.

Parents at a high school in Kentucky were outraged after they said school administers at a homecoming dance measured girls' dresses and banned some from coming in, saying their dresses were too short.

Carrie Vittitoe, whose daughter is a student at Eastern High School in Louisville, said the experience at the dance there last month left the 15-year-old feeling "upset and objectified."

"At about 7:45, I received a text from her and she said, 'They're measuring girls (dresses),'" Vittitoe told TODAY.

Carrie Vittitoe shared this photo of her daughter and her friends in the dresses they wore to Eastern High School's homecoming dance. Vittitoe's daughter, on the far left, said an administrator told her she "barely" passed the dress code. Carrie Vittitoe

In a letter to the school, Vittitoe's daughter said she was met with a "scowl" from an administrator when she and her friends arrived at the Sept. 21 dance. (Vittitoe asked TODAY not to use her daughter's name.)

"She told me that I was not going to cut it," her daughter wrote in the letter, which Vittitoe shared on her blog. "The administrator then told me to pull my dress down to the longest length I could, and measured it from there. She told me that I 'barely made it' and told I was okay."

The girl wrote that while she was allowed in, some others were not. She and her friends then decided to leave.

"We were absolutely horrified, and felt embarrassed and violated," she wrote. "We had just been told that covering our bodies was more important than having fun."

According to the local Courier Journal newspaper, the school's dress code for formal dances says dresses must be at most 2 inches above the knee and cutouts are not allowed. It also requires boys to wear ties and forbids jeans or sneakers. The school did not respond to TODAY's requests to confirm those details.

Vittitoe said that after she arrived to pick her daughter up, she heard police officers say anyone not attending the dance would be considered trespassing.

Several students had been turned away, but could not drive home, she said. It's not clear how many students weren't let in.

"I asked the police officer, 'What are we supposed to do with these kids? Should we take them to the sidewalk?'" she said. "He said yes. I tried to organize kids to get to the sidewalk in front of the building, and I (waited with two other moms) until their parents arrived to pick them up.

"There were no (school) administrators outside dealing with this," Vittitoe said.

The Louisville Metro Police Department did not return a request for comment about the event.

In a statement sent to students and families in the district, Eastern principal Lana Kaelin apologized and said the school would review its dress code policy for formal dances.

"Understandably, we had students and families who were upset or hurt by what took place, and for that I apologize," Kaelin wrote. "The dress code for our formal dances will be reviewed by student, parent and teacher representatives so that we can gather valuable feedback and suggestions that will help ensure the dress code is fair and equitable for all students."

"At the end of the day, we want to make certain that all students are able to come and enjoy the dances, and that parents also feel the events are safe and fun for their students," Kaelin said in the statement, which was provided to TODAY.

The school's dress code also bans rips and tears above the knee. Shutterstock

Local parents said that this isn't the first time dress codes have been a source of frustration.

According to a publicly available Eastern High School handbook, students "must be covered from shoulders to knees" at all times.

All clothing must be "knee length or longer," and leggings or pants cannot be worn under shorts, skirts, or dresses that fall above the knee. There are further restrictions on hair, headwear, coats, accessories and other clothing. The dress code for formal dances was not included in the handbook.

Last year, Vittitoe said, several parents went to the school requesting that they consider "relaxing" the rules, but no changes were ever made.

"It's more strict than probably all of the other surrounding high schools," Vittitoe said.

The school didn't respond to a request for comment on whether they had considered the parents' request.

Kristina Jorgensen Harrigan, a mom of four, said one of her daughters attends Eastern, while two others attend a different high school, which Harrigan said has a more relaxed dress code.

"I'm not sure why Eastern feels it necessary to be so strict with the dress code," Harrigan told TODAY in an interview over Facebook Messenger. "It sends a message to girls that they are somehow responsible for 'distracting' behavior. My daughter's shoulders and knees shouldn't be distracting to anyone."

However, Harrigan and Vittitoe both said that they hope to see the regular dress code become more relaxed in the future.

"I have four daughters, and it's tough watching them get upset over dress codes," Harrigan said.