Prom dress codes restrict freedom of students

Prom season still lingers in the air, and the commotion over dates, photos and dresses remains in the aftermath. And with the dresses, of course, the controversy over school dress codes across the nation trails closely behind. Girls have been ordered to cover up their cleavage, back and knees. They have been scolded, required to go home or suspended. A high school in Pennsylvania has even required that students submit photos of their dresses before they are allowed to purchase prom tickets. 
Such restrictions for a highly-anticipated, annual school dance are unnecessary. Students’ choices of formal wear are largely irrelevant to the success of the night and pose no harm. How, exactly, is an open-backed dress sufficient reason to kick a student out of a school dance?  What students wear is their individual choice, and so they are accountable for how people perceive them. 
Although TPHS has a fair and far less stringent  dress code regarding prom, many schools throughout the country are beginning to take prom dress codes to an entirely new and absurd level. Students in New Jersey have been told that wearing attire deemed too revealing will result in an eviction — without a refund. Similarly, Shelton High School of Connecticut maintains a ban on all dresses with lace, halter tops and spaghetti straps, as well as strapless dresses, leaving girls with few dress options that will not get them reprimanded.
Furthermore, the wide variety of dress designs makes enforcing a prom dress code difficult. Who is given the authority to decide how short is too short, when exposed cleavage becomes inappropriate or which dresses are scandalous in comparison to others? 
Besides infringing on students’ freedom of dress, prom dress codes are also sexist, as there is no parallel standard or expectation for male students. Boys do not have to worry about expressing themselves through their clothing, as there are few rules regarding what boys can and cannot wear. Society is so much more scandalized by women in revealing clothing than men in revealing clothing; people are offended by the exposure of a female’s body, but not by that of a male’s. 
Prom dress codes that aim to curb “distraction” are simply catering to the convenience of males at the humiliation of females — a student from Virginia was kicked out of her prom because some of the fathers who attended claimed that her dress gave rise to “impure thoughts.” 
Women should not be punished for being the source of a man’s sexual discomfort. Male self-control is not the responsibility of females. We, as a society, need to stop telling girls to cover up and instead teach them that female sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of. And, truly, what is more distracting: boys having to learn to deal with the occasional glimpse of a girl’s lower back, or girls being pulled aside, humiliated and forced to leave their proms? 
Some argue that dress codes enforce modesty and foster a positive school image. However, such rigid codes would not be so necessary if students were taught the importance of self-presentation instead of being forced to obey a seemingly authoritarian school administration.  Students, both male and female, should be taught that how they present themselves sends a message to the world about who they are and how they want to be perceived. Given that knowledge, students can make their own decisions. 
Knowing the reasons behind an action is more important than blindly following that action without question or senselessly rebelling against it. Often, dress codes are blindly established and strictly enforced — what is lacking is a discussion between student and administrator, or perhaps even student and parent. 
Prom has become a rite of passage  for many high school students, a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is only one night, and students should have the freedom to wear what they choose. Prom is iconic, and a new wave of restrictive dress codes should not take away from that experience.    
Besides, respect is determined not by the clothing choices students make, but by their character. It is the responsibility of the students to demonstrate how much self-respect they have for themselves and, in turn, how much respect they expect others to give them.
In this fashion, prom dress codes inhibit a student’s development of a sense of integrity in their clothing choice. And more importantly: They inhibit a student’s very right to self-expression.