By Amanda Wyatt
For many teens, the prom isn’t just a school dance; it’s a nightlong party. But members of the Sag Harbor Coalition concerned about the use of alcohol and drugs on prom night are trying to change this.
Pierson High School has held a voluntary pre-prom presentation on safety and making healthy choices for years, offering a discount on prom tickets to those who attend. However, at the coalition’s April 3 meeting, it was proposed that the event be mandatory for the parents of all prom-goers.
The idea was brought to the board of education (BOE) during their Monday night meeting.
“The members of the coalition felt pretty strongly about this and I certainly support it,” said Theresa Samot, BOE president and a coalition member.
“It’s a program that we’ve had in place for some time, but it’s been optional. And I think if we’re going to take some positive steps as a coalition, I think this would be a very good place to start,” she told the board.
“For the first time, I feel like we really took some action and really came up with some concrete recommendations that could be implemented,” she added.
Chris Tice, the board’s vice president who also sits on the coalition, agreed.
“At the coalition meeting, there was a consensus around the table that perhaps it should be required if you go to the prom. And many districts actually require students and their parents to attend that,” she said.
As Jeff Nichols, Pierson’s principal, pointed out, “The focus of the presentation in the past has been not only the event, but most importantly, what comes prior to the prom and what comes after. And that’s the community side that I’m concerned about.”
“The prom goes from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Most kids show up at 8 p.m. and they’re out by 10:15 p.m. And yet it’s a 12 hour evening,” he said.
While Nichols said had never made the meeting mandatory because he “wanted to entice students to come,” he was still amenable to either option.
At the same time, Mary Anne Miller, a BOE and coalition member, said she had heard “mixed reviews” about the effectiveness of the meeting.
“I’m a little hesitant to mandate it until we make sure that we’re making a very good choice,” she said.
Both Miller and Nichols pointed out that there were other details of making the prom presentation mandatory which would also need to be worked out. For example, an “appeal process” must be put in place for students whose parents cannot attend the presentation at the scheduled time.
In related news, the coalition is hoping to implement a new alcohol and drug curriculum for the next school year. Dr. Lisa Scheffer, a coalition co-chair and the director of the school’s pupil personnel services (PPS), said she had been looking into academically sound, comprehensive programs.
“Our next step is to choose one and to commit to using a curriculum that conveys [a] no-use message consistently and extend it through the entire pre-k through 12 sequence,” she said at the coalition meeting.
“We’re looking at a September start, so that would require that we get moving pretty soon and start identifying what the curriculum is, purchasing into the materials and start training our staff,” she added.
Coalition members also agreed that parent education and community outreach were integral aspects of any program.
“What we need to do is make sure whatever we’re doing as a school, we do in unison with the community so that we can move forward; otherwise, it’s a dissipated effort,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent.
A total of $25,000 was proposed for the creation of such a program, according to 2013-2014 budget figures released at Monday’s BOE meeting.
Also at the last coalition meeting, co-chairs Dr. Scheffer and Dr. John Oppenheimer decided to partner with Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano to draft a letter regarding law enforcement and underage drinking.
As Fabiano pointed out, there are laws that many people may not be aware of, such as the county’s zero-tolerance stance on drinking and driving underage.
The letter will be reviewed at the next meeting — which is scheduled for Monday, May 6 at 6 p.m. — and will be widely dispersed to the community, said coalition members.