Skirting the Issues

Amy Knight didn't want to wear satin or sequins to her Northbrook High senior prom. She wanted to step back into Scottish history and create a Queen Elizabeth-style dress. The renaissance is her favorite time period. She bought gillies, laced-up Scottish dancing shoes, and peacock-feather earrings. The only accessory left was her boyfriend. She asked Jonathon Howton if he'd wear a kilt.

"Can I wear it regimental?" he asked. He wanted to go commando.

Amy said no. But he agreed anyway. A kilt would be more comfortable than a tux, he figured. Amy borrowed a kilt from a friend who dances at the Renaissance Festival and found a sash and moccasins, which she lined with rabbit fur. Amy is a drama student; prom was a production.

About two weeks before the April 29 prom, Amy, an 18-year-old senior, asked education specialist (and senior principal) Sandy Parker if the kilt would be okay, just to make sure Jonathon wouldn't be turned away at the door. Amy remembers Parker saying she didn't think the kilt would be a problem as long as he wore something underneath it, but she had to check with building principal Larry Reap.

Four days before the prom, Amy hadn't heard anything. She stopped Parker in the hall. Amy remembers Parker saying that Reap had said no.

Distraught, Amy followed her down the hall. "Did he say why?"

She remembers the answer: "It's too close to cross-dressing."

Amy was stunned. "I don't think cross-dressing's a bad thing -- I went out with a bisexual transvestite for three months, for Christ's sake," she says. "It's not a bad thing. It really isn't. The most comfortable jeans I can find are in the male section of the store -- that's closer to cross-dressing than a man wearing a kilt. Me wearing a kilt would be cross-dressing."

Amy's boyfriend ended up wearing a pair of black slacks and a white polyester button-down shirt with puffy sleeves. Amy found the blouse for $1.50 in the women's section of Value Village and cut out the shoulder pads. It was missing a button. Jonathan felt like an underdressed, cross-dressing slob. They arrived at the Westin Galleria for the prom, but stayed for only an hour.

Jonathon dropped out of high school, but when he goes back next year to Spring Woods High School, he wants to wear a kilt to that prom. In the meantime, Amy's mission is to get as many people as possible to show up at her graduation in a kilt. Jonathon says he'll do it. "There's not really much they can do besides ask me to leave," he says. "And I can always say no."

That probably won't be a problem. Reap says he never made the cross-dressing comment. "I get blamed for a lot of things whether I said them or not," Reap says. "They'll say that I said such-and-such or such-and-such whether I did or not."

Reap says it wouldn't have bothered him if Jonathon had shown up in a kilt. "What difference does it make what they wear to the prom?" he says.

He doesn't remember Parker asking him about Amy's boyfriend wearing the kilt. He doesn't even remember Amy; her name sounds familiar to him, but he can't picture her face. Parker remembers Amy. And she remembers saying that no, the kilt wasn't allowed.

"It just isn't in the school dress code," Parker says. "It was a school function, and we felt like it was violating school dress code. We can't allow anything that could create a disturbance."

How can a kilt create a disturbance?

"It's just very unusual," she says.

What about the cross-dressing comment?

"That was a joke," she says emphatically. "We don't have a policy against cross-dressing. I was joking with Amy."

But Amy didn't laugh.

E-mail Wendy Grossman at


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