- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2005

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Brother Kenneth M. Hoagland had heard all the stories about prom-night debauchery at his Long Island high school: Students putting down $10,000 to rent a party house in the Hamptons. Pre-prom cocktail parties followed by a trip to the dance in a liquor-loaded limo. Fathers chartering a boat for their children’s late-night “booze cruise.”

Enough was enough, Brother Hoagland said. So the principal of Kellenberg Memorial High School canceled the spring prom in a 2,000-word letter to parents this fall.

“It is not primarily the sex/booze/drugs that surround this event, as problematic as they might be; it is rather the flaunting of affluence, assuming exaggerated expenses, a pursuit of vanity for vanity’s sake — in a word, financial decadence,” said Brother Hoagland, fed up with what he called the “bacchanalian aspects.”

“Each year it gets worse — becomes more exaggerated, more expensive, more emotionally traumatic,” he added. “We are withdrawing from the battle and allowing the parents full responsibility. (Kellenberg) is willing to sponsor a prom, but not an orgy.”

The move brought a mixed, albeit passionate, reaction from students and parents at the Roman Catholic school, which is owned by the Society of Mary (Marianists), a religious order of priests and brothers.

“I don’t think it’s fair, obviously, that they canceled prom,” said senior Alyssa Johnson of Westbury. “There are problems with the prom, but I don’t think their reasons or the actions they took solved anything.”

Brother Hoagland began talking about the future of the prom last spring after 46 Kellenberg seniors made a $10,000 down payment on a $20,000 rental in the Hamptons for a postprom party. When school officials found out, they forced the students to cancel the deal; the students got their money back and the prom went on as planned.

But some parents went ahead and rented a Hamptons house anyway, Brother Hoagland said.

Amy Best, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at George Mason University in Virginia and the author of “Prom Night: Youth, Schools and Popular Culture,” said this is the first time she has heard of a school canceling the prom for such reasons.

“A lot of people have lamented the growing consumption that surrounds the prom,” she said, noting it is not uncommon for students to pay $1,000 on the dance and surrounding folderol — expensive dresses, tuxedo rentals, flowers, limousines, pre- and post-prom parties.

Ms. Best pinned some of the blame for the burgeoning costs on parents, who are often willing to open their wallets for whatever their child demands.

“It is a huge misperception that the kids themselves are totally driving this,” she said.

Edward Lawson, the father of a Kellenberg senior, said he and other parents are discussing whether to organize a prom without the sponsorship of the 2,500-student school.


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