Florida teen says she was denied entry to prom for wearing a suit

Florida teen says she was denied entry to prom for wearing a suit

A Florida teenager says she was denied entry to her public school’s prom because she wore a suit, which the school says violated its dress code for formal occasions.

Sophie Savidge, a 16-year-old junior at Mason Classical Academy, a top-ranked charter school in Naples, arrived at Vanderbilt Country Club for the school’s prom Saturday evening with her mom, Holly Savidge, and friends. But Sophie was turned away, Holly said, after Nissa Mitchell, the vice principal, told them Sophie’s suit violated the dress code. Holly said Sophie was told she could come back to the dance only if she went home and changed into a dress.

“I was so upset,” Holly told NBC News on Wednesday. “I said, ‘Sophie doesn’t wear dresses. She doesn’t like to wear dresses — it’s just not her.’ And [the vice principal] said, ‘Well, unfortunately, those are the rules.’”

Sophie Savidge smiles wearing prom outfit
Sophie Savidge smiles wearing prom outfit

Sophie said the incident made her nervous because she had never spoken to someone from her school’s administration. “But I was also really shocked, because I didn’t think that it was going to be a problem,” she said of wearing the suit.

Mason Classical Academy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. However, it said in a statement that it has “clear dress code guidelines for all dances.”

“The dress codes are clearly presented and outlined to all students and parents,” the statement said. “Any student who shows up to an MCA dance and does not abide by the dress code is given the opportunity to return to the dance in the proper attire. All students are treated equally at MCA and are welcome and encouraged to attend these voluntary events.”

A “guide to attire” on the school’s website says that, for formal occasions, “ladies” are required to wear dresses and “one piece attire only.”

Holly and Sophie said that they were both aware of the dress code but that Sophie has worn suits to other school events, including a Valentine’s Day dance in February.

“They have never denied her before, but we were willing to take that risk because that’s just who Sophie is,” Holly said. “I’m very proud of her for taking that risk.”

Though Sophie said she didn’t think her school would block her from attending prom for wearing a suit, she researched laws and court cases ahead of time. She said she found a court decision, Peltier v. Charter Day School, in which the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in 2022 that dress codes that require girls to wear skirts violate Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded schools. Charter Day School, a K-8 school in Leland, North Carolina, appealed, and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, allowing the decision to stand.

“I was thinking I could possibly argue that with them if they said that I couldn’t come in, but I ended up being just kind of too shocked and nervous to really say anything to them,” Sophie said.

Holly said she doesn’t plan to take any legal action against the school but that she hopes it does change the dress code. She said that she plans to home-school Sophie for her senior year but that the decision is unrelated to the prom incident and that it has been a difficult year for the family. Sophie’s father died last month, and Holly said they’ve struggled to find a sense of normalcy.

“That was the one thing up ahead that gave her some light at the end of the tunnel or something fun to look forward to, was that prom,” Holly said.

Local designer Peter Jean-Marie showed Sophie how to tie an Eldredge knot.  (Holly Savidge)
Local designer Peter Jean-Marie showed Sophie how to tie an Eldredge knot. (Holly Savidge)

Since local news coverage drew attention to her story, Sophie said, two students have come up to her at school to thank her for speaking out about what happened and to tell her they have also wanted to wear suits to school events. Holly said Peter Jean-Marie, a local fashion designer, also reached out after he read about Sophie. On Wednesday after school, he met them at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, where his ties are sold, and gave Sophie five silk bow ties and taught her how to tie an Eldredge knot.

Sophie encouraged young people in similar situations to “stick up for what they believe in.”

“Keep on pushing through even if other people don’t agree with how they want to express themselves,” she said.

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This article was originally published on NBCNews.com