Friday, March 30, 2012

You Can Buy A Watch At The Dollar Store!

Yahoo! ran a story today about prom dresses getting out of hand, with administrators bringing rulers to the dance to measure hem lines (BTW- if your prom date looks like any of the ladies in these photos, my compliments).  Another great example of instructional leadership from administration...

The article recalls a tale from several years back.

The high school in our district had instructed students that the doors to the actual dance would be closed, with no exceptions, at 7:30.  In past years, there had been some problems with students showing up after drinking and the thought was that by requiring students to be inside the dance by the early start time they would head off such behavior.

Due to some construction surrounding the hotel where the dance was being held, the time was actually extended by 15 minutes to allow all the limousines to filter in.  Sometime after 8:00, a limo of students pulls up late and are told they are not going to be allowed entrence to the dance & subsequently asked to leave.  They refuse.  The acting administrator called the superintendent to ask how she would like them proceed.

"Call the police."

The police sent about 15 squads to handle about a dozen unruly teenagers.  The students were African-American which now immediately moved the issue from being one of tardiness to one of race.

The next school board meeting was met with massive attendance, and picketing outside complete with placards and rhyming chants.  Parents approaching the microphone during open session called for the immediate resignation of the school board president, the superintendent, and the high school principal as well as financial reimbursement for the prom ticket, limousine, tuxedos, and dinner!  

I'll give a ton of credit to the board president (an African-American man) who calmly held his ground on how the incident was handled and the original justification for the rule.  If I recall correctly, the school refunded the students the cost of the prom tickets but never came close to even considering the other 'demands.'

The whole thing is sad reflection on how insane prom has become.  Measuring tape? Police?  Picketing? WTF?  Schools and administrators have an obligation to maintain a standard of acceptability.  Students have an obligation as teenagers to try and find a way around those standards!  This doesn't make them criminals!  However, when the parents turn the school dance into a political war, or when administrators go looking for conflicts nothing good comes of it.

It's also worth referencing the beginning of Rafe Esquith's wonderful book- Lighting Their Fires.  The first part of his book focuses on teaching children the value of being on time.  Punctuality is on life support in this country.  Tardiness isn't fashionable, an uncontrollable personality quirk, or a cultural allowance.  Countless candidates have blown job opportunities over the years in my schools for showing up late without even offering an explanation.  Children who are taught (or shown by example) that it's okay to be late are being set up for failure.  No one likes to be the first one at the party, but in formal settings time does matter.  Those that acknowledge and respect this are in a position of advantage.

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