NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Nashville community is stepping up to throw the ultimate prom for a Nashville Christian School student who was reportedly not allowed to attend their senior prom for choosing to wear a suit instead of a dress.
“It was brave of them to make the sign and stand out in the front of their prom and it was powerful,” Nashville business owner Derek Van Mol explained.
The post by a Nashville Christian School senior on Instagram showed the student in a black suit holding a sign that said, “They wouldn’t let me in because I’m in a suit.”
In the post, the student wrote, “I should not have to conform to femininity to attend my senior prom. I will not compromise who I am to fit in a box. Who are you to tell us what it means to be a woman?”
Nashville Christian School said in a statement that it has “established dress requirements for daily school attendance and at our special events. All students and families are aware of and sign an agreement to these guidelines when they enroll. The school’s expectations regarding appropriate prom attire were communicated to this student and the student’s family in advance of the prom.”
“It made me cry,” Marcie Allen Van Mol said of the Instagram post. “You want children to enjoy their childhood. These are supposed to be their best years of their life, and to not be able to attend a dance because you are not wearing the correct clothes? I mean, this is 2023. We need to do better, Nashville.”
As small business owners, the Van Mols — parents of two teens — used their platform to shift their anger and sadness into action.
Within 48 hours, numerous businesses and supporters were on board as the Van Mol’s offered to host the ultimate prom for the student and 25 of their friends at their venue, AB Hillsboro Village.
“We are simply a venue and we are simply using our platform and our voices to help the children who don’t have their own platform and aren’t able to really share with the world how they feel. We are living in different times now and we need to open our hearts and be welcoming — inclusive of all people,” Marcie explained.
While the community plans to give the student a night to remember, it’s the message of love and light that the Van Mol’s hope resonates.
“I hope it’s a domino effect. I hope that cities across the state and the country and the world see that one act of kindness can change someone’s life. We are Nashville natives and we are not going anywhere and we are not going to tolerate this kind of discrimination. Not on our watch.”
An East Nashville business owner started a GoFundMe to help the Van Mols with the prom. Actress Candace King, who lives in Nashville, donated $5,000 to launch the campaign, which has raised more than $25,000.
The extra funds will go to the student’s charities of choice: Oasis Center and Inclusion Tennessee.