FONDA - A parent carrying a petition signed by other parents criticized the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education for not allowing eighth-graders to attend the prom.
Renee Hohensheldt, the mother of an 11th-grader at the high school, presented the petition Monday with 162 signatures on it in favor of the district allowing any junior to bring an eighth-grade date to the prom, which will take place in May.
She said the unwritten rule doesn't make sense considering the district will allow the students to bring dates from outside the district who are 20 years old, yet 14-year-old eighth-graders are unable to attend with juniors, who often are 16 years old.
Renee Hohensheldt speaks to the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education on Monday about concerns she has with the district not allowing middle school students to attend the prom if they are invited by a junior.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
Hohensheldt said her daughter and her date are good students.
"It isn't up to anyone else but the parents and students to decipher who they want to have as their date, providing that they are responsible," Hohensheldt said. "Our students are being forced to take dates that are not of their choosing to go to the prom."
School district officials say they will not allow eighth-graders at the prom and will make the rule clear in written documents related to the prom in the future.
Hohensheldt said she filled out the prom information for her daughter and her date and received a call from district officials informing her such a date wasn't allowed. However, Hohensheldt said, no restrictions on a junior date's age or grade level are mentioned in the prom sign-up information.
High School Principal David Halloran said the adviser packet and the district's policy that has been used for "decades" doesn't allow middle school students to attend high school dances or high school students to attend middle school dances.
"The prom is a high school dance held off of school grounds," Halloran said. "Similar to the senior banquet, which we do not allow eighth-graders to attend either."
He said this issue has come up in the past, but the dates took no for an answer and understood the decision.
"It is not about a student being 14 and a student being 16, it is about keeping middle school students separate from high school students for these types of functions," Halloran said. "It is not about either one of these students; by all accounts, these are great kids. This is about consistently keeping students in middle school separate from high school students."
Halloran said many of the surrounding districts have the same rules, although many of them don't specifically mention the limitations in prom documents.
Halloran and Interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello said the district will put together a committee together to address the issue.
He said the district will continue to stand by the grade limitation.
Colucciello said the school board has sent a formal letter to the parents of the district to inform them about the situation and district policy.
Levi Pascher can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.