Prom night is one of the events in a young person’s life that is considered a great milestone. Often, it’s the first time that both young men and women dress extravagantly for an occasion and look forward to the night for months, if not years before it happens. But one school is facing criticism from students and parents regarding their classmates with special needs being forced to leave prom early against their wishes.
At a school board meeting on Tuesday, Deborah Myers-Eisenberger — mother to one of the 11 special needs students escorted to the prom by school-aide chaperones — expressed her disappointment at what happened during 2019’s prom night.
“We are very disheartened to have to tell you that they were rounded up, all of them, 11 of them, before they finished their dessert, before king and prom queen and last dance, and they were made to leave against their will,” she said. “They were humiliated and herded out like sheep.”
The group of 11 students with special needs consisted of nine students and accompanied by neuro-typical — i.e. non-special needs — escorts.
Heaping on humiliation.
Parents went on to tell the school board that when the special needs students were rounded up to leave at 10:40 p.m. it not only flew in the face of school guidelines, — which stated students could not leave the prom venue before 11:15 p.m. (15 minutes before prom officially ended) — but it “robbed” them of their special night and humiliated them as they were gathered up and escorted out early and before the prom king and queen had been announced and crowned.
One student was even humiliatingly escorted out by hotel security where the prom was held.
Another mother of a student asked that there be “immediate and severe action to support your students and your community of students with special needs.”
For its part, the school has issued a statement saying they will investigate what happened at prom:
“The Board has policies specifically prohibiting discrimination against students based upon their disabilities (and other protected categories as set forth in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination). Therefore, whenever such an allegation is made, the Board ensures that its administrators investigate the allegations and that they take such action as is appropriate to address the issues. It cannot, however, comment on the results of such investigations, or any actions taken, due to privacy rights of both students and staff members. Even though the Board cannot provide additional information on this issue, please know that it takes such allegations very seriously, does not condone discrimination of any kind, and remains committed to providing all students with the opportunity for an excellent education.”
The truth is, there is sadly no salvaging prom night for the 11 students whose night was cut short and were dished an extra helping of humiliation beyond what they likely deal with on a daily basis. Regardless, every school should take note and realize that special needs students’ greatest desire is to just get to do things the way their classmates do, and dragging them away early from prom is the very definition of adding insult to injury.