Small business owners in Nashville are stepping up after a high school student was turned away from their senior prom for wearing a suit.
B. Hayes, 18 – who uses they/he pronouns, according to their Instagram account – said they weren’t “allowed in the doors” because they were wearing a suit.
Hayes’ post had more than 23,000 likes and almost 2,000 comments as of Wednesday. Hayes said they have attended Nashville Christian School for 13 years.
“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,” the post read. “who are you to tell us what it means to be a woman?”
A spokesperson for Nashville Christian School said in a statement to CNN that it has established dress code requirements for both school attendance and special events, and, “All students and families are aware of and sign an agreement to these guidelines when they enroll.”
The school communicated its expectations for “appropriate prom attire” to Hayes and their family before the prom, according to the statement.
“While we certainly respect a student’s right to disagree, all of our students know from our school handbook that when they do not follow such expectations at school-sponsored events, they may be asked to leave,” the statement said.
CNN has reached out to Hayes for comment.
Hayes’ post was shared with business owners Derek and Marcie Allen Van Mol, who own AB Hillsboro Village, an event venue in Nashville. The Van Mols called Hayes to see whether they’d be interested in a prom of their own, where they could invite up to 25 friends.
“At the end of the day it’s about doing what’s right, and B got slighted,” Derek Van Mol told CNN.
A friend of the Van Mols, Allison Holley, started a GoFundMe page after seeing the post. More than $29,000 had been raised as of Wednesday to pay vendors who will contribute to Hayes’ “ultimate prom” on May 6. The leftover proceeds will be donated to Hayes’ charities of choice, Inclusion Tennessee and Oasis Center, according to the page.
“I naively was unaware that we were still having dress code issues like this in 2023,” Holley told CNN in a phone call. “So of course, I was like, we’ve gotta do something about this.”
Derek Van Mol told CNN he and his wife have received about 1,000 emails from business owners around the world offering their services for the event.
RCA recording artist Tone Stith is booked to perform, he said.