KNOXVILLE (WATE) – An article about debutante balls in Knoxville has now sparked a discussion about racial equality and segregation within the community.

It started with an article in the Knoxville News Sentinel titled “Cinderella moment: Debutante balls strive to preserve tradition, civility”.

The article talks about two debutante balls. While describing the 53-year-old Dogwood Ball that was held at the Knoxville Marriott this year, it reads “While there is no application process — the Dogwood Ball is by invitation only — there are at least three criteria young women must meet to be considered: they must be sophomores in college and unmarried. They also must be white. Trent said she does not see a problem with the event being segregated.”

They say the information came from a woman named Anne Trent, the chairman of the Board of Governors of the East Tennessee Presentation Society.

Cynthia Moxley, CEO of PR firm Moxley Carmichael, is one of several people who have been vocal about that policy since the article’s publication. She wrote about it in her blog “The Blue Streak.”

“What if someone was reading the paper from another town and thinking about bringing a business to Knoxville? What kind of community would they think we were?” Moxley said in an interview with WATE 6 On Your Side.

“It’s a private organization. They can do what they want, but they’re doing a disservice to their own debutantes. Those young women could benefit from being among a diverse group of people their age,” she added.

Another post was made on the blog Knox Views titled “What century is this again?” It says “I AM surprised it’s still an official policy, and shocked at this woman’s comments.”

Despite multiple phone calls, WATE 6 On Your Side could not reach Anne Trent. However, a spokesperson with the group she represents said she was misquoted and that they were upset about it.

WATE 6 On Your Side then reached out to the newspaper for comment.

“We stand by our article and stand by our reporter who wrote it. Before publication, the editor involved and myself reviewed what was said in the interview. We went over her notes and what was said in the conversation. The reporter made another phone call to Anne Trent to make sure everything was clarified. And at that point, Anne’s response was, ‘If you’re going to deal with race, I don’t want the article to be published.’ We were not willing to take that step,” said Knoxville News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy, explaining the back story.

That has now sparked a conversation questioning how much progress we have or have not made with race in Knoxville.

The Dogwood Ball is not affiliated in any way with the Dogwood Arts Fest going on right now in Knoxville.