February 27, 2007

A High School Prom Reality Check

A Disturbing Event

Almost exactly two years ago I received a real dose of reality about the possible horror of a Prom Night gone wrong.

I was in in the Buffalo, New York area doing some of our Parenting with Dignity work for a couple of very special communities in that part of the country and I was staying at a hotel near the airport. That Friday night I did not get much sleep. On my floor were about 30-40 high school age young people who were spending the night. They started making a very loud "ruckus" early in the evening and then it became quiet. (I think it was while they went out to dinner and the prom dance.) I went to bed as I had had a long day and I had a fairly early flight the next morning.


About midnight the noise started again. I was awakened by some loud noise on my floor. Doors were slamming and I could hear the sounds of kids shouting, running, and laughing. Doors were slamming and music was playing on some portable stereo. I went into the hall to see what was up and was shocked at what I saw. Young poeople seemed to be running everywhere. Some were still in prom dresses and tuxedos. Some were wearing swim suits, which struck me as odd because it was still winter and there was snow outside. (I found out later that they were using the hotel swimming pool, even though it was posted as closed at 8:30 P.M.) Some seemed to just be unabashedly running from room to room in their underwear.

I Had Heard About These Parties...
Now I Was Seeing One Up Close!

Needless to say, I was shocked. I had been a school teacher for 29 years and had heard some of the horror stories about out of control Prom Night parties that turned into orgies and that were completely unsupervised by adults; but I had never witnessed one in person!

I called the front desk to complain. They sent someone up from the front desk a couple of times, but is seemed to make no difference. The party raged on. I am not a bashful man and I don't often shy away from talking to kids who seem a bit out of line... and this party seemed to be a dangerous event with lots of drinking, promiscuity, and such. I put on some clothes and went into the hall and stopped a few of the young people to ask them what was going on.

Most of the young people just ignored me as if I were not there. I was quite surprised by what I was told by the few kids who would even speak to me. Basically they told me that they were having their private Prom Party! When I asked them if their parents had any idea what they were doing I was told that their parents had made the reservations for them and had furnished the alcohol. (I'm not sure that I necessarily believed them but that is what they told me.)

I was really shocked by what I was seeing. The hotel manager finally came up at about 3:00-3:30 A.M. with a few members of his security staff and they began to throw the young people out of their establishment. Needless to say I did not get much sleep that night. I guess that I was pretty self-absorbed and annoyed.

Parenting with Dignity - Promotes Discussions

I did some thinking that night about how our society had evolved to this point where parents would actually condone an unsupervised party like the one I was witnessing. It made me know that our PWD Curriculum is a needed commodity. It made me once again think about how parents must get together and discuss what expectations they as a community hold for their children and their behavior.

A Shocker!

The real shocker of this whole experience came the next morning when I arose to go to the airport to catch my plane. As I left my room the hotel had left a copy of the local newspaper at the door to every occupied room. I picked one up, stuck it in my briefcase, and proceeded over to the airport. I went through security and arrived at my gate well in advance of the recommended one hour. I had some time to kill so I bought a cup of coffee and sat down to read the paper.

A Senseless Tragedy

Then it hit me. In the paper there was a report of a terrible auto accident from the previous evening. It had involved some teens who had attended a Prom Party! It sounded like the killed and injured young people might have come from the party that I had witnessed the night before. I was shocked. The sketchy report in the paper did not have much information but it hit me that I might have seen some kids at my hotel the night before who did not survive the night.

When I arrived home later I did some online checks and, in fact, confirmed my horror to find that the young people involved in the fatal crash were from the party I had witnessed!

I called the Manager of the Hotel to offer my willingness to testify as to what I saw the previous evening. He thanked me for identifying myself, but I was never called. I lost track of the tragic event because it totally disappeared from the news within a day or two. (I do not include details here out of defference to the families of those young people.)

There is help!

Ironically, at that time Tom Heatherington, our CEO/CTO of Parenting with Dignity, and his wife, Lori, had begun work on an online book on how to plan and conduct an After Prom Party that would totally avoid that type of tragedy. Their book is now available! It is an online download and you can have today! It is titled the After Prom Party Guide.

If you are associated with a High School that has a prom or if you have children who are "Prom-Age" this book is a must read. During my years as a teacher I was involved directly in planning may Proms and associated parties. I wish we had this book! As the end of the school year approaches, many communities plan and put on "Senior Parties" for the graduates on their graduation night and this book will work equally well in helping your community to plan and put on one of the coolest, and most fun and memeorable parties for the young people of your community! And... the bottom line is that it will be a safe and sane party that will not end tragically like the one I witnessed. Read more about this remarkable new resource for parents, schools, PTA/PTOs.

PS: One of the things Tom and Lori are trying to do is get the word out to as many people as possible. They have created a website called "Life Saving Virus". Won't you help them create awareness by spreading this viral message? See www.LifeSavingVirus.com/

No comments: