Hamilton is not the only Butler County school district that prohibits students with too many unexcused absences from attending their high school prom, a Journal-News examination of district policies found.
New Miami Local School District has a similar rule, where students are allowed no more than five unexcused absences. Any more and students aren’t allowed to participate in extracurricular activities or school-sponsored dances such as Junior/Senior Prom, said Patricia Blake, superintendent.
“The requirements are in the student handbook, online and discussed at parent meetings. If students are not permitted to attend they are told by staff,” Blake said, noting the district will check the number of students impacted by the policy before New Miami’s prom on May 9.
Ninety-three Hamilton High School students found out this week that they won’t be allowed to attend the dance this year because of the district’s policy. This is the second year that the Hamilton City School District has had in place a policy that prohibits students with too many unexcused absences from attending prom, according to the school district.
Students with more than four unexcused absences this semester are not allowed to buy a ticket and attend Hamilton High School’s prom on April 25, said school district spokeswoman Joni Copas.
Three unexcused tardies equal one absence as well.
“(Principal John) Wilhelm and the school communicated this policy through many ways: Opening Welcome Assembly, updated information on the website, student planners, BluTV video announcements, advisory announcements, PA announcements, fliers, information sent to parents in the Graduation booklet,” Copas wrote in an email.
Additionally, information about the policy was sent in an email to all seniors at the beginning of the second semester, she said.
About a dozen students protested Friday outside of the high school over the prom policy. And there were 371 likes for a Hamilton High School Prom Protest 2015 Facebook page as of Friday afternoon.
“The administrators, they view prom as a privilege and I disagree with that… I’ve been aware of prom since I was little,” said Hope McClain, 17, a Hamilton High School senior who is on the list of students who can’t go to prom this year for missing too many days.
She said she’s a straight-A student, with two part-time jobs.
“I feel I have met the requirements to graduate, and I feel prom is a graduation reward,” McClain said.
Other schools districts, including Fairfield City Schools, Lakota Local, Monroe Local and Talawanda, have no such policy in place, with Talawanda saying only students expelled or suspended during the time prom occurs are prevented from going.
“We do not have a policy that says students have to meet specific requirements to attend prom,” said Holli Morrish, spokeswoman for Talawanda.
In the state’s largest school district, Lakota East holds prom today, and Lakota West on May 2.
“We do not have an official discipline policy directly linked to prom. We take student discipline very seriously and handle situations on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with our Student Code of Conduct,” said Lauren Boettcher, project manager of media and community relations for Lakota, in an email.
But all may not be lost for Hamilton students banned from this year’s dance. TapouT Fitness, a gym that opened at the end of last year in Hamilton on Main Street, has offered to host prom for those ineligible students instead, said one of the owners, Anthony Oglesby.
“Currently we have 5,000-square-feet of space that’s basically not developed yet, but we’re willing to donate $20,000 worth of renovations to make sure they have the ultimate red-carpet experience,” Oglesby said.
This weekend, Oglesby and partners will gauge the interest to see if about 75 to 100 students are interested in attending. If so, a crew will work to makeover the unused space in time for prom next Saturday. A $25 fee would be charged for students to go, he said.
“I think not being able to go to prom… it’s such a motivator-killer. They need to know that the community is behind them,” he said.
For more information or to donate, contact the gym at 513-795-5888. TapouT Fitness opened at 1204 Main St. in the Town & Country Shopping Center, in space previously occupied by MainStreet Market, which closed the grocery store in 2013.
“We’re not promoting skipping school, missing school, cutting school,” Oglesby added. The effort is to support students with good grades who missed school for health and other legitimate reasons, he said.