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Prom: The Four “Ds” of Prom Protocol - Dates, Dress, Decorum, Drug (Testing)

Reviewed May 2022

  1. Dates. Iowa’s civil rights law extends protection to students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom as well as in all activities offered by a school, both public and nonpublic.[1] This includes prom (and all school dances).  Therefore, same sex couples may attend prom as a couple if they are otherwise eligible to attend prom. However, a school may limit prom attendees to current students of the school or recent graduates of the school.
  2. Dress. While a school cannot insist that students wear traditionally female or male attire (i.e., girls do not have to wear dresses and boys do not have to wear tuxedoes), schools may lawfully have a dress code if enforced even-handedly. In other words, the usual regulations are acceptable. But a boy may wear a dress to prom if the dress would be acceptable on a girl, and a girl may wear acceptable “male” prom-wear.
  3. Decorum. The key here is evenhandedness. Whatever reasonable rules of conduct and decorum a school has must be enforced evenly and consistently. If PDAs (public displays of affection) are not tolerated, then make sure that staff breaks up the kissing between straight couples as well as same sex couples.
  4. Drug testing. Drug testing is regulated by the Iowa Student Search and Seizure Law, Iowa Code chapter 808A – see below. If a student shows up to prom and has obvious signs of being under the influence of either alcohol or drugs then school officials may breathalyze or drug test a student. Absent obvious signs and absent suspicion you cannot conduct random, suspicionless (without an articulable reason) drug testing as a condition of admission to prom. School officials that violate will not be protected in a lawsuit. Here is a link directly to Iowa Code section 808A. If you have questions contact Thomas Mayes or 515-281-8661 or your district’s legal counsel.

[1] However, a bona fide religious school may impose “qualifications based on religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity when such qualifications are related to a bona fide religious purpose.” Iowa Code § 216.9.