What I love – and hate – about prom
March 27, 2014
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I loved some things about prom when I was a principal early in my career.
I loved seeing how hard juniors and their teacher sponsors worked to transform a plain banquet hall into a magical, glittering place.
I loved watching the limos pull up, full of students so excited about a night they’d been looking forward to for years.
I loved seeing the boys decked out in their tuxes and the girls in fairy-tale gowns.
And I loved the idea that this one night would be magic for students I’d watched grow and mature into young men and women.
But I hated what I knew might spoil that night.
I hated knowing that too often one or two students might use what was supposed to be a night of magic as an excuse to drink.
I dreaded “playing catch the drinkers,” the lies the students would tell to cover up, the calls to their parents, their anger and shame.
I hated the suspensions or expulsions that followed – sometimes costing the students scholarships, costing them their places on teams they’d been part of for years, costing them memberships in Beta Club or National Honor Society or service clubs.
But worst of all, I hated the fear I always felt, the fear that some of our students would be injured — or would kill themselves or someone else – in an accident prom night, an accident caused by alcohol.
The statistics around teen drinking and driving always fed that fear for me.
• The fact that one-third of the fatal traffic accidents involving teens each year occur during prom months – April, May and June.
• The fact that nearly 700 students under the age of 21 are killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
• The fact that the alcohol-use rate for Lancaster County youth exceeds the national average, according to a survey by Coalition for Healthy Youth.
Our schools make a tremendous effort to stop students from drinking on prom night. And business and community agencies are making that effort, too.
We hold Prom Promise, trying to get students to pledge not to drink on prom night. We hold class meetings to discuss the dangers and consequences students will face for drinking on prom night. We get students to write and make videos and do projects on the dangers of underage drinking.
But the truth is, probably the most effective way to get students not to drink is for parents to simply talk with their teens about the dangers of drinking on prom night.
The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention has done research showing that even though parents don’t believe it, their children listen to them, that when parents speak frankly and sincerely about the dangers of drinking on prom night – their children don’t drink.
There are other things parents can do to stop teen drinking on prom night, too. Here are tips I found online.
• Make sure your teen has a plan for the evening and make sure you know what that plan is.
• Take an inventory of the alcohol in your home and secure it if needed.
• Know who’s driving your child to the prom. If it’s a rented limo, check their policy on allowing alcohol in the vehicle.
• Go over the school’s prom rules with your child, especially the consequences for violating them.
• Tell your child over and over and over to use that seatbelt – too often students don’t want to “wrinkle up their clothes.”
• Communicate with other parents and school staff.
• Stay up for your child’s return home and let them know you’ll be waiting up.
Together, let’s all – students, parents, teachers and the community – work together to make this year’s prom a magic one.