By Tessa Raebeck
Speakers at the podium at Sag Harbor school board meetings are generally thrifty community members or concerned parents; rarely do students appear to express their views — except, of course, when the prom is threatened.
At Monday’s board of education (BOE) meeting, members of the student council came to address the board as representatives of the Pierson High School senior class.
The students expressed their concerns over an administrative notion to ban limousines from the prom and instead make students take the school’s yellow buses to the event. The discussion came following incidents at last year’s prom where students consumed alcohol in the limousines before arriving at the school-sponsored event.
At the January 13 school board meeting, Pierson High School Principal Jeff Nichols said the Nutrition/Wellness/Health and Safety Committee had “sort of endorsed” a tentative plan to have students who are attending prom meet at the school beforehand and be transported to the prom via school-sponsored buses, thus “eliminating the limousines that currently transport students to the prom.”
A significant part of the prom tradition is a group of friends renting a limo or party bus, essentially a larger limo, together to take them to and from the event. Students and their parents decide who rides in their limo and where those in the limo will meet for pre-prom photos. The limo, they argue, is as much a part of the prom as the dance itself.
The move, Nichols said, “Could be seen as an invasion of students’ rights [but] would help us to more closely monitor students on that evening.”
Speaking on behalf of her class, student council and prom committee member Olivia Bono made it clear that the students do, in fact, see the idea as an invasion of their rights.
“We just wanted to voice to you the opinions of the seniors,” Bono told the board from the podium, “because limos and party buses are part of the experience of the prom, even though we understand why you would be taking them away and we do appreciate your concern, it’s not really fair because what happened last year wasn’t necessarily our fault.”
“We just feel,” she continued, “that we would like the right to make our own impact, we would like the chance as our grade to not be punished for someone else’s choices.”
Carly Fisher, also a student council member, reminded the board that students and parents have to sign a waiver prior to the prom saying they will not partake in illegal activity, “which I assume is similar to what would be done if we were to take school buses — it’s the same idea,” she said.
“We feel it’s a rite of passage to have the limos,” said Fisher. “It also makes it easier for us after prom.”
Fisher said without designated limousines, students would have no ride home and many (who could be consuming alcohol regardless of whether the school bus rule is enacted) would have to drive later on.
After the young women left the meeting, Nichols said he had advised Bono to address the board after she came into his office with the assumption that a decision had already been made.
“That’s what we encourage in our students,” he said, “participation in government. I think it’s great that she came out tonight and expressed her views.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, BOE member Sandi Kruel was honored by the New York State School Board Association for putting in extra time and effort as a board member.
A meeting of the Educational Facilities Planning Committee to discuss the bond capital projects will be held Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Pierson Library.