Tuesday, May 17, 2005

FREDERICK, Md. — Two high school seniors who reportedly told a newspaper that they planned to drink alcohol after their prom said yesterday that they have been barred by the principal from attending the dance.

Governor Thomas Johnson High School students Shawnda Lawson and Nicole Taylor, both 18, were quoted in the Frederick News-Post on May 5 discussing their plans to drink at parties after the prom this Saturday.

“I like drinking,” the newspaper quoted Miss Lawson as saying.

Yesterday, the students and their parents said their comments had been misconstrued. They said they had been talking about other students — or about students in general.

News-Post Managing Editor David Elliott said the newspaper stood by its story.

Frederick County Public Schools spokeswoman Marita Loose would not discuss the case, citing privacy concerns. But she said school administrators have “considerable latitude” to bar students from extracurricular activities, which she said are a privilege, not a right, under Maryland law.

Miss Loose cited language from the school system’s policy handbook stating that students have a responsibility to act in a respectful manner and to avoid “activities that are an infraction of acceptable social actions.”

Miss Loose also cited policy language stating that students may be disciplined for activities off school property and not during school-sponsored activities, “if school administrators have a reasonable belief that the health and/or safety of the student or others in the school may be in danger, or that school operations or activities may be disrupted.”

Miss Taylor said yesterday that if she chose to drink off-campus, it should not affect her prom privileges, even though she is underage.

“I know it’s 21 and I’m only 18, but as long as it’s OK with my mom, they should not worry about it,” she said.

Her mother, Sylvia Porter, said that she doesn’t think her daughter drinks or that she planned to drink after the prom.

“It was all a misunderstanding,” she said.

Miss Lawson, who described herself as an honor student, said the story had damaged the teens’ reputations.

“Now everybody looks on us like we’re a lush or we’re an alcoholic,” she said.

Timothy Lawson, 38, said he doesn’t think his daughter drinks. And he said his daughter should not have been punished by the school for something she reportedly said.

“I believe they’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” he said.

Still, the milk plant worker and single father said his daughter had been careless with her words, regardless of exactly what she said, so he had forbidden her from driving on prom night.

“All I can do is, same as other parents, try to raise them with the best morals and values I can. That’s about all you can do and hope they make the right choices in life,” he said.

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