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Take Note: Wanna dance? Get a date

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Like many students, 17-year-old Kelly Noah takes issue with one of her school's official policies.

Unlike other students, Ms. Noah, a student council member, has become a campus activist and something of a media sensation in her hometown of Chicago because of her opposition to the policy. The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper and local television stations picked up the story late last month.

For, at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, an all-girls Roman Catholic school on the city's South Side, students cannot go to a school dance unless they have a date--a guy date. No all-girl groups, no going it alone.

No date, no dance.

Other Catholic girls' schools in the area allow students to show up dateless, Ms. Noah found. She and other McAuley students think it's wrong for a school that fosters strong, independent young women to require that they appear at a school dance on a boy's arm.

So does her mother, Shirley Noah, who spoke with Education Week last week because school officials don't want her daughter talking to the media. "If a boyfriend isn't a major issue with them, why push it?" she asked.

Sister Corinne Raven, the school's principal--and the person with whom Kelly Noah has been butting heads--did not return phone calls last week.

The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Sister Corinne as saying that a traditional date dance is about "social interaction, and yes, the difficulty sometimes in having to ask for a date." There are no plans to change the rule, she was quoted as saying.

Ms. Noah, a junior, complied with the no-date, no-dance policy last year at the sophomore dance by bringing a blind date.

"When you have to use a boy ... to get into your own school's dance, that's kind of pathetic," Shirley Noah said. "There are seniors in that school who've never been to a dance."

Last fall, Ms. Noah organized a dance but didn't have a date. So she wore a psychedelic drama-department castoff costume and toted along a life-size cardboard cutout of the "Star Wars" movie hero Luke Skywalker. She and her cardboard date got in but probably only because she helped plan the dance, her mother said.

As a junior, Kelly Noah is not eligible to go to the senior prom on May 4, but she's going to keep urging a change in the date policy.

Shirley Noah said: "Her attitude is, 'I'd better start now because it's going to take a while.'"

--Millicent Lawton

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