By Daisy Pleasant Jones
Coastal Courier (Hinesville, GA) Staff Writer
Liberty’s high school principals were in the spotlight last week explaining why 11th and 12th graders might not be able to bring outsiders to their high school prom this year.
Bradwell Institute Principal Dr. Vicki Albritton and LCHS Principal Paula Scott defended their decisions to exclude students from bringing prom dates who do not attend either of the high schools.
The announcement was made over the public address system at both schools Feb. 9.
The Liberty County Board of Education boardroom had virtually no standing room Feb. 13 as parents and students packed the seats to ask why new prom rules were changed with less than a month before tickets go on sale.
“We don’t understand the rules. We want the rules from last year reinstated,” Liberty County High School senior Jeremy Fermin, said.
Fermin was one of several students who took the opportunity to voice strong opposition. After one student presented a petition with 526 names in opposition to the decision, a parent read a letter written by a BI junior who could not attend the meeting because of work.
Hinesville resident Kim McGlothlin read her daughter’s sentiments to the board. “Please don’t be so exclusive ... There are other solutions,” the letter concluded.
McGlothlin voiced her own concerns about how the rule would disrupt the tradition of prom for many students.
While the rule was news to most of the audience, BOE Chairman Lily H. Baker noted it was made known to board members during the Oct. 24 meeting. Board minutes record Albritton as having made the announcement to the board. Parents in the audience expressed surprise and concern that the issue had been discussed at an earlier meeting.
The minutes quoted Albritton with saying “The prom at both high schools will be for 11th and 12th grade students only. Non-LCHS and BI students will not be allowed to attend the prom. If there are leftover tickets, underclassmen will be allowed to purchase these tickets. A letter should be sent home and an article put in the newspaper regarding these changes.”
In previous years, students could bring any date including those of legal drinking age. Last year, administrators had to interview and approve dates from outside the local high school.
“It was overwhelming. It was taking up 90 percent of my time interviewing prom dates,” Scott said.
The principals said the decision was prompted by problems last year.
The number reason for the change is tickets were sold out, preventing regular juniors and seniors from having an opportunity to attend the event, Scott said. “We had students who did not have a chance to attend the prom.”
She also noted most students wait until the last minute to purchase tickets.
The second reason was an issue of capacity at the Fort Stewart club where the prom is hosted.
“The capacity is 500 for a sit-down dinner, but when you have a dance too there is a problem,” Scott said. “The dance floor is not capable of handling the size of a crowd. It is a huge group of people and it is almost impossible to manage that huge number of people.”
While crowd control was a concern, principals acknowledged neither high school actually sold out of prom tickets.
The potential for under-aged drinking was also a key concern for the principals and board members.
“Space is not the issue. The problem is the sale of alcohol,” said a woman from the audience.
Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Todd Buchs interjected, saying he could stop alcohol sales at the board’s request.
“Club Stewart is my club. If you don’t want alcohol sold, we won’t have it sold,” he said to loud applause.
Baker commended students and parents for coming to speak out, but said the board needs to support the decision of administrators, she said. “We kind of send a bad message. Unless we have a good reason to overturn this procedure, I suggest we keep it,” the chairman said.
“It’s not a policy we set,” board member Carol Guyett said. “Principals and sponsors should come and present the problems to us. We’re not the ones to do the crowd control.”
Board members expressed some concern about the change.
“I’m a little afraid that if we don’t allow it that they’ll have a prom, only not with us,” Guyett said.
School principals said finding a solution is their ultimate goal.
“We’re just trying to come up with a way to make it work,” Scott said. “There is no real solution.
“Like anything else in life you create a problem trying to solve another problem,” Albritton said.
On Tuesday, she stated she’s still trying to resolve the issue. Last week she met with BI prom sponsor Jan Thomas to discuss options.
She said Thomas plans to meet with parents in the next several days.
“We’re pursuing a workable solution that will allow students to bring dates of their choice. We still have time to get the word out,” Albritton said.
Prom tickets go on sale March 1 at Bradwell Institute. The prom is April 14
April 21 is the Liberty County High School prom. Both are hosted at Club Stewart.