Female students at a Connecticut High School are furious that dresses bought for this weekend's prom are being banned because they have exposed shoulders, backs, sides and legs. One mother—whose daughter had two dresses rejected—said, "They've suggested the girls wear T-shirts under their dresses. My daughter won't wear a T-shirt. She would be mortified."

The students and their parents claim that the school dropped the dress code bomb with only a week before prom. The NY Times reports:

On Friday, Beth A. Smith, the headmaster, made an announcement that was intended to remind students of the dress code for prom. Backless dresses, side cutouts and bared midriffs were among the styles that would not be permitted. Ms. Smith urged students to ask a faculty member whether their dress was acceptable.

Reaction was swift. Students were aghast. Parents who had spent hundreds of dollars on dresses, alterations and coordinating shoes and jewelry cried foul...

Freeman Burr, the schools superintendent, issued a news release over the weekend hoping to calm the storm, saying the public school was just restating existing policy. But the policy may not have been as clear as administrators believed.

While the school handbook does outline a dress code and a prom contract says that students shouldn't dress inappropriately, some contend that their dresses—or very similar ones— have been worn at previous proms (the dress code and prom contract have remained the same, too). Here's the school's dress code (PDF), which doesn't refer to the prom, just school operations:

DRESS CODE: The Board of Education encourages students to maintain good personal hygiene and to dress in clean clothing appropriate to the school situation. Restrictions on freedom of student dress may be applied whenever the modes of dress in question are unsafe either for the student or those around the student, are disruptive of school operations and the education process in general, violate school rules and/or are contrary to law. For health and safety reason shoes must be worn at all times. Skirts and shorts must be of appropriate length. Undergarments must be appropriately covered at all times. All shirts and blouses must reach the waistline and no midriff is to be exposed. Halter tops, tube tops, strapless tops, see-through lace tops, spaghetti strap tank tops, mesh tank tops, work-out wear, spandex, cut offs (for either sex) and short mini skirts are not appropriate school attire and will not be allowed. Attire or accessories that depict logos or emblems that represent drugs, alcohol or tobacco are not allowed. No gang symbol of any type may be worn or displayed on school premises or at any school-sponsored activity. Accessories, such as spiked jewelry and long chains, which may be a danger to self or others are not allowed. Attire that conveys a message which is vulgar or hateful or promotes illegal discrimination is prohibited. Hats, bandanas, sunglasses or headgear of any kind are not allowed. Outerwear must be kept in student’s locker. Students who are in violation of the school dress code must change their clothing and are subject to disciplinary consequences, including being sent home.

Superintendent Burr said, "We want all students attending the prom on Saturday evening to have a memorable night. We know that all of our students want a great prom. We want all of our young female students to be dressed beautifully. Obviously, we want them to enjoy themselves. However, we also want them to be dressed appropriately - appropriately with class and dignity, and also dressed in a tasteful way."

Burr also explained, "Those guidelines were announced over the PA system, again, last Friday following concerns raised by some faculty and staff, and even some of our male students, who had some serious concerns about some of the prom dresses that were being shown." Thanks, prom dates!

Students have circulated a petition arguing for their freedom to where their hard-bought prom gear, "There is a sexist and backwards logic that girls must cover up so that boys are not distracted or tempted to behave inappropriately. If a girl wears a pair of shorts and a boy takes that as an invitation to touch her, who really needs to be told to control themselves? Don’t teach girls to hide their bodies; teach boys self control and that they aren’t entitled to a girl’s body just because she dressed in a way that made her feel beautiful or just didn’t want to get overheated. And in a time when so many young girls struggle with body image should we not encourage them to be comfortable enough in their own skin to allow people to see it?"

Or, as one student told the Connecticut Post, she's simply not buying a $90 ticket to the prom: "I had the form and the money to pay, but if I can't wear something that is going to make me feel beautiful, there is no point."