Why this senior's last day of school dress got her suspended

May 22, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Image: ABC 8

Almost nothing worse could happen to a high school senior than getting suspended on your last day of school. Evette Reay, senior at West Side High School in Dayton, Idaho, said that she chose her last day of school dress carefully because she wanted to feel good about herself. Instead, it was this so-called inappropriate dress that got her suspended 30 minutes before the last bell rang.

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As you can see in the picture, Reay's mint green above-the-knee dress is the type of outfit you would wear to church or brunch with Grandma — at least, all of the churches I have gone to. Reay tells ABC 8 the reason behind her dress choice, "It was my last day of school. I wanted to feel good about myself. I was fixing to be a woman in this world that was conquering anything."

Instead, Reay was told by her teacher, Legrand Leavitt, to go home and change her dress. Reay refused. Leavitt threatened to call the school superintendent and hold Reay's high school diploma because of her insubordination. After the incident, which Reay described as "threatening and out-of-line," Reay called her mother to bring her new clothes to school — only to find she had been suspended anyway.

The teacher's side of the story came out when Reay and her mother, Michelle Reay, conferenced with Leavitt and the school principal Tyler Telford. The teacher claims Reay acted rude and "got in his face" after being told her dress was too short. Reay's mother says that while the dress may not have been entirely appropriate, the school handled the dress code confrontation poorly.

According to the high school's handbook, if a student violates dress code with inappropriate dress, they should first call home to ask for extra clothing — which Reay did after the fact — or can be provided extra clothes by the school to complete the school day.

Reay points out what so many students argue again and again every time a dress code violation comes into play, most often targeted at female students: The school jumped the gun. The way they handled this possibly appropriate dress was unfair. Instead of following the plan laid out in the handbook, a plan where Reay should have been first asked to call her mother to bring extra clothes, this senior with a good track record was suspended on her last day of school. She was even threatened with the loss of her diploma, an honor she had spent four years working for, just because of a dress. Thankfully, school board trustee Dan Garner is working to expunge this suspension from Reay's record.

The funny thing about these dress code violations that make the news is that they most often hinge on a small freak-out most outside observers don't understand. Yes, dress codes are there for a reason. It would truly be inappropriate for a student, male or female, to show up half-dressed to school.

But this student came to school on her last day in a beautiful dress that showed a little knee. It's hard to find the logic in a dress code blowup over an outfit you could wear to church. Extreme dress code enforcement like this is essentially a school crying wolf — so much time is being wasted on silly dress code violations that no one will take real dress code issues seriously.

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