When Danielle Shegda strolled into her high school prom earlier this month, she wore a red satin gown and came on the arm of a much older, much grayer man--her dad.
And though Ms. Shegda said she had fun at the dance, it wasn’t exactly the prom night she had envisioned for herself just weeks before. The single mother of a 10-month-old son, the high school senior said she really just wanted to go to the prom by herself.
She finally took her father only after losing a battle with school officials at Bishop McDevitt High School, a Roman Catholic school in suburban Philadelphia, who told students they could not go solo to the school-sponsored dance.
“It’s tradition, and it’s considered a social learning experience,” Marie Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said in explaining the reason for the rule. “This is the first time a student has ever asked about going to the prom alone.”
But the practice baffles Ms. Shegda.
“Why should I have to depend on somebody else to go to my own prom?” she said. “Social events that require an escort are not as popular anymore. I don’t see why it should be mandatory.”
Ms. Shegda was not the only one to find herself up against a restrictive prom-date policy. As in years past, some students at both public and private high schools discovered this spring that meeting school-required date guidelines was just as much a part of prom preparation as finding the right dress or pinning a flower corsage.
Age Also an Issue
At Cashmere High School in Washington state, for example, guests at this year’s prom had to be at least in the 9th grade, but could not be older than 19. For three girls with boyfriends who were 20 at the time of the dance, the policy became a problem when school officials discovered that the students had subtracted a year off the ages of their dates on the formal requests for guest passes they filled out just days before the prom. The couples were turned away from the dance.
Cashmere schools Superintendent Joe Crowder said the district originally set the requirement for safety reasons, but officials are now considering changing it to allow 20-year-olds to attend the event next year. He added that he would not want to increase the age limit beyond 20 because of liability issues associated with having guests who could legally drink alcohol at a school-sponsored event.
A similar age limit set by school officials at Newark High School in California almost prevented senior Angela Pintos from bringing her 30-year-old date to the prom, even though he is her husband. Another married student and an engaged student were also asked to choose different dates until Principal Patricia Christa let the school policy slide, allowing each of the three couples to attend the dance together.
The school is now going to evaluate each case individually to avoid a similar problem at next year’s prom, the principal said.
Age is not an issue for prom-goers at Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Wash., but a criminal record is. Senior Michelle Whittington found that out the hard way when she tried to bring David Sosville, her boyfriend of four years, to the prom.
School administrators told Ms. Whittington she couldn’t because of Mr. Sosville’s convictions for theft and assault, as well as his involvement in fights at the high school. Mr. Sosville, who now lives in a work-release halfway house for convicts, is the first person to fail the background screening that the school’s administrators require of nonstudent guests.
“This guy had no business being at a school dance,” Principal Emmett Arnt said. “When the community found out about it, they were supportive of our decision.”
The principal said that prescreening guest lists is a common practice of school administrators in the Spokane area.