Amari Williams is an Honor Student at Carencro High School in Carencro, LA. Like most students, she has been excited all year to attend her Senior Prom. On April 1, Amari was denied that opportunity.
News of the incident shocked students and members of the small community of Carencro, which is located maybe ten minutes from Lafayette, LA. But it didn’t shock anyone as much as it shocked Amari’s mother, Troynetta Williams.
“I was very upset because the Principal approved the dress months ago,” said Mrs. Williams.
Mrs. Williams said she met with the principal late January and showed her photos of African Formal Dresses online. “She told me as long as her cleavage and midriff areas were covered it would be fine,” explained Williams.
Mary Qualey, Principal of the school, told Black Boot News Editor… “no such conversation ever took place.” However, Mrs. Williams assured Black Boot by recalling the week she met with the principal and told our Editor the reason she met with the Principal is because the school’s Prom Policy required her to do so.
“We followed the policy that was given to us,” said Mrs. Williams. So, when the call came that her daughter was rejected at the front door of the Prom due to her dress being “inappropriate” she was appalled.
Black Boot News retained a copy of the school’s Prom Policy and it states:
To avoid dress code conflicts, take a picture of you in your dress and ask Mrs. Qualey or Mrs. Leger if it is appropriate.
Mrs. Williams claims she couldn’t take a picture of her daughter in the dress because the dress had to be custom made being that it would require authentic African material that would be shipped in order to be created. “I wanted to know if it was ok for her to wear it before we spent money ordering the African fabric,” said Mrs. Williams.
After our Editor explained these details to Principal Qualey, she remained certain she was never shown the dress prior to the Prom.
Qualey insists the dress being African was not the issue. “I thought her dress was lovely and she looked lovely in it but it was not appropriate. It was not formal,” she says. Qualey says students were told all formal dresses must touch the ground. Amari’s dress touched the ground on one side and came within an inch of her ankles on the opposite side.
When Mrs. Williams made it to the school she brought her needle, thread, scissors, and all the contents of her sewing bag with her. “The principal told me the dress was not equal all the way around and that’s why it wasn’t appropriate. So, I was going to fix it on the spot and make it equal,” explained Mrs. Williams. “But the principal told me unless the dress touched the ground all the way around the bottom, Amari would not be permitted.”
Amari says she stood near the adults nearly in tears as they argued because she never imagined Prom Night being like this. “When I left my house my family cheered for me. I was in tears. Everyone hugged me and told me how pretty I looked. I had no idea I would be punished for being me,” said Amari. “If I had my hair permed, overloaded my face with make-up, and wore a typical gown like most girls wear I know for sure they would have had no problem. But I don’t feel beautiful in that attire. I wore a Formal Dress that represented who I am and I felt beautiful wearing it.”
Even more controversy arose when Prom pictures surfaced. Black Boot News received several pictures from this Prom which showed many of the students may have abided by the length policy but some students broke other policies and were all admitted into the Prom.
School Policy states:
Clothing should not be suggestive or indecent. Girls should choose a dress that will not reveal undergarments or inappropriate body parts. No exaggerated cleavage, exposure of midriff, revealing lower backs or upper thighs (too high splits), No strapless, No Two Piece, No High Level or Bi-Level dresses. If you choose to wear a strapless dress, straps must be sewn on.
The Policy goes on to state:
Girls may wear a tuxedo if they choose to.
It is very interesting Amari’s dress covered all of her midriff and cleavage. It touched the ground on one side and came within an inch of her ankle on the other side. She was rejected, yet girls were permitted to wear a tuxedo to a ‘formal’ event.
Amari was rejected but girls who exposed midriff were reportedly admitted. Girls with strapless dresses and girls who exposed cleavage were reportedly admitted also.
Principal Qualey re-assured our Editor that no one admitted in the prom broke school policy. “I was at the front door and nobody got past me if their dress was inappropriate,” said the Principal.
Black Boot News has retained copies of photos from various students but the law will not permit the media to publish pictures of minors without consent. However, one student sent us a consent message with her picture.
“I am #### and I am a student at Carencro High School. This is the dress I wore to the 2017 Prom and I was admitted with no problems.”
Amari is not your typical teen. In fact, in our interview with her we found her personality to be much more eclectic than most teens. She wears an afro and is very proud of her eccentric energy. “I have been fully Natural for over a year now. I love authentic Black Heritage and African Culture,” she says.
Being ‘Fully Natural’ is a term most commonly used in the Black community when referring to hair with no chemicals and body products made from natural herbs instead of chemicals.
The Honor Student told us she prefers Black Soap over regular soap. She loves 90’s R&B. Her favorite shows are The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Sister Sister, and a Different World… all popular Black Shows of the 90’s. She says Grammy Winner, Tasha Cobbs, is one of her favorite singers. “I was so disappointed on Prom Night I had to let Tasha lift me back up,” she says.
One of Amari’s dreams is to spend the weekend in New Orleans at Essence Music Festival. “I have never been to Essence but I imagine its a place where a dress like mine would be embraced and the environment is full of natural black women like myself,” she says.
Mrs. Williams says people make mistakes. “All I want is for the Principal to apologize to my beautiful daughter because she stole a moment of her childhood that she will never get back.” Mrs. Williams suggests the School Board should revisit the school policy. “We are a diverse society now. Every culture has a different definition of formal.”
We asked Qualey could her judgement have been swayed by her misunderstanding of Black Culture and she responded, “my decision had nothing to do with disrespecting African Culture. We had an Indian student who came in an Indian dress but her gown touched the ground as required. She was admitted in the Prom. I gave Amari an opportunity to fix her dress or find another one,” said Qualey.
Mrs. Williams claims she and her daughter were told they had 30 minutes to find another dress or she would not be admitted inside. When the time had passed, the mother and daughter claim the Principal ignored them until they left.
Amari has a 3.2 GPA. According to her mother she has never been suspended, sent to the office or punished at school other than having her cellphone confiscated. Amari claims even that incident was a misunderstanding. She works a full time job at McDonalds and gives half of every pay check to her mother to help provide for she and her 6 siblings. “I don’t ask her to do that but that’s just the kind of thoughtful person she is,” said her mother.
Amari has already been accepted into Northwestern to study Nursing. She plans to begin college this Fall. Principal Qualey says if she had to relive the moment she would make the same judgement. “If you break the rules for one student then you will have to break the rules for them all.”
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