Nearly every teenager dreams of the moment they walk into prom and the reaction they’ll receive. Perhaps, at that moment, the lights are low, but a disco ball is making the whole room sparkle. Music is playing, people are dancing and decorations transform the high school gym into a Hollywood gala or an underwater landscape. Then all eyes turn when the door opens to reveal a couple dressed to the nines.
Mireya Briceno’s prom should have played out that way, too, with her romanticized visions of a high school dance coming to life. Up until the time she arrived at the event, moreover, the night was going swimmingly. She had primped herself, giddily slipped into her dream dress and posed for photos with her date, Dereko Riley.
Still, the Michigan teen felt chilly on that April evening, so she slipped on Riley’s jacket before walking into the dance and made her entrance with it on. But when she took the jacket off, she revealed her entire outfit – and that’s when her troubles began.
Mireya’s high school vice principal subsequently happened to catch a glimpse of the teen in her floor-length gown. The polka-dotted mermaid dress had a classic, retro vibe – certainly not a look that would raise red flags for violating a dress code by itself. However, as soon as the vice principal asked Mireya to turn around to see her outfit in its entirety, he sent her straight home.
Mireya Briceno was 18 years old at the time of her prom, which took place in April 2015. She attended Muskegon High School in Muskegon, Michigan, and has since moved on to Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the time of the school dance, then, she was in her final year of high school. In other words, it was her last chance to go to prom with her classmates at Muskegon.
Furthermore, she and her mother, Connie, had pored over the high school’s list of dress code requirements before the prom. The school explicitly forbade students from attending in gowns that exposed their midriffs. In fact, even dresses with sheer fabric over that area of the body would be forbidden, according to Muskegon High School rules.
However, according to her mother, Mireya’s outfit passed all of these criteria. The pair had examined the $300 dress in the mirror before Mireya left for the dance, and it completely covered the teen’s midriff with her arms at her sides. It also grazed the floor, so there wasn’t any question as to whether it was long enough, and the fabric itself wasn’t see-through, either.
Nonetheless, Mireya’s classic dress had one feature that ended up catching her vice principal’s eye: an open back. And that ought to have been okay, as the very same memo forbidding bare midriffs assured students that they could wear open-backed gowns. Still, within an hour of walking into prom, Mireya was sent home.
“They asked her to stand up and turn around, so she turned around and they simply told her, ‘You’re in violation. You need to go home,’” Connie told Fox 17 West Michigan in April 2015. And Mireya didn’t put up a fight. Her mother added that although she wanted to protest, she also didn’t want to start crying in front of her classmates.
And according to the Daily Mail, Mireya later commented in a Facebook post, “I wouldn’t be as upset if they were fair with the rules, but they weren’t. I saw plenty of people with the same style dress as me that stayed. I went through being embarrassed and my night was ruined.”
Connie did admit to Fox 17 that a sliver of her daughter’s midriff could be considered visible in the open-back dress if the teen, for some reason, lifted her arms over her head. However, she also repeated her daughter’s assertion that many other girls wore similar gowns, or even gowns that were clearly in violation of the dress code – and none of them were sent home.
Muskegon High School’s principal, Brad Perkins, declined to comment on the decision after the prom. A reporter from Fox 17 even tried to show him images of other girls who attended the school event without incident. “What would be the purpose of looking in the past?” he said.
And remember how Mireya walked into prom with her boyfriend’s coat on? Well, Perkins claimed that the teen did so in order to hide an outfit that she knew was in violation of her school’s dress code. In fact, he claimed that she’d admitted to doing just that after she was confronted by school staff.
In contrast, Connie Briceno said that her daughter just needed an extra layer of warmth in the chilly Michigan air. As soon as she walked in, the coat came off, since she felt she had nothing to hide. “[She] even posed for a picture with the cheerleading coach in that dress,” Connie pointed out. Mireya added on Facebook, “I never agreed to ‘breaking’ the dress code. That was definitely a lie.”
Regardless, the principal said that he stood behind the high school’s dress code, which had been in place for several years before Mireya’s fateful prom night. In addition, he claimed that he’d received lots of positive feedback for his decision. Mireya had a huge amount of support on her side, though: from the community, her classmates and, of course, her own mother.
Erin Zaragoza, for one, took photos of Mireya and her date before they left for the dance. And the photographer had only nice things to say about the teen’s look. Zaragoza told The Huffington Post, “I never take photos of anything I think is inappropriate or too revealing. And when I [saw] her dress, I thought it was beautiful and classy. She has such a great fashion sense and did not deserve to be kicked out of prom.”
Mireya’s date also took to Twitter to draw attention to what he felt was her unfair ejection from the dance. He shared multiple photos of the pair on his account with the hashtag #StandWithMireya, seemingly in an attempt to show that her dress was not breaking the school’s dress code.
Of course, Mireya’s mom stood up for her daughter as soon as she heard the news that night. According to a May 2015 Huffington Post article, she also hoped that the school would subsequently provide her daughter with “an apology and an explanation.” “There’s only so much you can do, but it’s her senior prom,” Connie added to Fox 17. “She’ll never get that night back.”
Unfortunately, Mireya didn’t receive the apology that her mother hoped she would. Nevertheless, her principal did go on to admit that the night had been a learning experience for the entire school. He also expressed regret that Mireya had left the dance without speaking to him. According to The Huffington Post, he felt that they could have come up with a solution that allowed her to stay at the prom.
The whole episode has at least provoked a constructive conversation, though. Indeed, Principal Jenkins said that the school would review its dress code in the upcoming academic year. And though her own high school prom ended abruptly, Mireya did still have the chance to attend her boyfriend’s prom a month later – albeit in a different dress that night.