Many school districts have given up sponsorship of proms because of liability concerns. Instead, the students’ parents have stepped in to organize and help fund the event.
“There is an advantage to school districts not hosting a prom, and the advantage is avoiding all of the liability issues,” Baldwyn Superintendent Harvey Brooks said. “Sooner or later, you will have issues involving alcohol.”
At IAHS, the school-sponsored prom set for April 2 was canceled after senior Constance McMillen challenged the district’s ban on same-sex dates. McMillen’s case, which includes a lawsuit on her behalf seeking to overturn the ban, has generated international headlines.
In a statement announcing its decision not to host a prom, the Itawamba County Board of Education said it hoped “that private citizens will organize an event for juniors and seniors.” A group of parents at the school met Thursday night to discuss plans to do just that.
In other districts, parents have been organizing prom for years. They sell tickets, select venues and serve as chaperones.
Monroe County Superintendent Scott Cantrell said that when he attended the Hatley High School prom as a student in 1987, it wasn’t organized by the school.
In the Tupelo Public School District, the Parent-Teacher Organization has sponsored the prom.
“It allows the school to focus on academics as opposed to social aspects,” Superintendent Randy Shaver said. “I think the prom is important and homecoming is important, but those are things that are best handled by parents. It allows us to focus on teaching and learning. That has nothing to do with what is going on in Itawamba County. It has been like this for a long time.”
Itawamba Agricultural High School was actually the only high school in its district that had plans to have a prom that was an official school function. Both Tremont and Mantachie high schools have proms that are sponsored by parents.
A message left with school board attorney Michele Floyd asking whether the district previously had any plans to let parents sponsor the IAHS prom was not returned.
Chandra Randolph, administrative assistant to the superintendent for Lee County Schools, said that district doesn’t sponsor proms for any of its schools because of liability.
“We would have to get the building and hire the security,” Randolph said. “We just don’t do school-sponsored proms.”
Nettleton, Amory, Corinth and Houston are also among the districts that don’t manage their own proms.
“I think the biggest advantage is that parents are not as tied down by budgets, and they can get more community resources and make it bigger and better than we can,” Amory Superintendent Gearl Loden said. “It is nice being in a community where you have a high level of involvement.”
The Booneville School District sponsors a banquet with a short program for the juniors and seniors but not for dates. After that, the students attend an off-campus prom that is sponsored by parents and is not under the jurisdiction of the school district, Superintendent Ricky Neaves said.
Some districts do still host proms as official school events. Among them are Oxford, Lafayette, New Albany, Union County, Prentiss County, North Tippah, Alcorn County and Tishomingo County. Those districts also vary on the policies they set for who is allowed to attend prom.
For instance, Prentiss County has a simple solution for eliminating controversy about dates at the dance.
According to the district’s handbook, no students are allowed to bring dates to the prom, with one exception. Married students can attend with their spouse.
Other districts are split. In South Tippah County, Ripley High School has a parent-sponsored prom, while Pine Grove and Blue Mountain have proms that are organized at the schools with school staff sponsors, Superintendent Frank Campbell said.
Lena Mitchell, Errol Castens and Alisha Wilson contributed to this report. Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.