Students Say Weeknight Prom is a Buzz Kill, but That's the Point

Filed under: In The News, Teen Culture

No curfew busting with a weeknight prom. Credit: jupiterimages

Ask any teen what the best thing is about prom, and "after-prom" likely will be the answer. But that may change for students at one Rockland County, N.Y. high school, where administrators are doing what they can to tame the post-dance action.

After years of failed attempts to reign in excessive partying, Pearl River High School scheduled its junior and senior proms on weekdays this year, and instituted a strict morning-after policy designed to penalize any student who doesn't make it through the front door of the school by 7:34a.m., the official start of the school day.

Traditionally, The New York Times reports, Pearl River students head out to Manhattan or the Jersey Shore after the prom for festivities that typically turn out to be exercises in excess. The move to curb these excursions comes on the heels of last year's post-prom debacle, when 50 students were cited and fined $300 each for underage drinking at a motel in Seaside Heights, N.J.

One of the students cited last year was the son of the school's P.T.A. president, Donna McDonough, who tells The Times she made her son, Kevin, pay the fine from money he earned during the summer working as a lifeguard.

For years, schools around the country have wrestled with the after-prom dilemma, coming up with tactics to try to contain damage, such as holding sleepovers in the gym, asking for no-alcohol pledges and scheduling proms for the night before graduation.

Some schools, The Times reports, even go so far as to organize their own after-party activities, such as the Derby, Conn. school that has organized an after-prom party at a sports and laser tag complex. At Albertus Magnus High School, a Roman Catholic school located near Pearl River, school officials have organized a trip to Disney World to compete with after-prom events.

"We knew there was a lot of nonsense going on," Albertus Magnus High President Joseph T. Troy tells The Times. "We feel like we have a better handle on it now."

Many high schools do, in fact, hold their proms on weekdays, to take advantage of lower prices at hotels and other venues. But, according to The Times, many either give students the next day off, or allow them to miss the day with a parent's permission.

That will not be the case at Pearl River this year, though prom goers will be welcomed to school the next morning with eggs, sausage and bacon served by the P.T.A., and will attend field day events until regular classes start at noon.

Pearl River students have threatened to boycott the prom, and have circulated a petition calling for the dances to be moved back to Fridays, saying all attendees are being punished for the behavior of a handful of students. A number of parents at the school also have complained that the administration is interfering with their parental rights to decide what is in their children's best interests.

Pearl River Principal Bill Furdon tells The Times the object of changing days was to separate after-party activities from the prom experience, and to help reduce peer pressure -- not to put an end to the students' post-prom celebrations in New York City or at the Jersey Shore.

Students at Pearl River are still collecting money for two party buses that will head to New York on the Saturday following the prom, though The Times notes there were four buses chartered last year.

The Pearl River prom committee is trying hard to transform the school gym into a glamorous Hollywood-inspired venue, complete with a red carpet and faux paparazzi, to entice students to attend, according to The Times.

"We're trying to make it elaborate to compensate that it's on a Wednesday night," junior class president Kimberly O'Toole tells The Times.

As of April 13, 205 tickets had reportedly been sold for the April 14 junior prom, which had 250 attendees last year.

But at least one student will not be walking the red carpet. Joseph Howard,17, is taking three Advanced Placement classes, and is worried about the workload, he tells The Times.

"If the prom was on a Friday, I would go," he says. "But it's a Wednesday night. I know my teachers are going to be giving me work that night. It just kind of kills it."

Related: Lesbian Teen Says She Was Sent to a 'Fake Prom'

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.