Long Island principal cancels prom because of ‘financial decadence’
October 17, 2005
BY FRANK ELTMAN
UNIONDALE, N.Y.—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, 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,” Hoagland said, 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.”
Renting a house in Hamptons
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. “There are problems with the prom, but I don’t think their reasons or the actions they took solved anything.”
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 post-prom party. When school officials found out, they forced the students to cancel the deal; the kids got their money back and the prom went on as planned.
But some parents went ahead and rented a Hamptons house anyway, Hoagland said.
Amy Best, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at George Mason University in Virginia and 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.
Parents might sponsor prom
“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.
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.”
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.
“This is my fourth child to go through Kellenberg, and I don’t think they have a right to judge what goes on after the prom,” he said. “They put everybody in the category of drinkers and drug addicts. I don’t believe that’s the right thing to do.”
Some parents waiting to pick up their children on a recent afternoon said they support Hoagland.
Some parents relieved
“The school has excellent values,” said Margaret Cameron. “We send our children here because we support the values and the administration of the school and I totally back everything they do.”
Hoagland said parents, who pay $6,025 in annual tuition, have expressed appreciation for his stand. “For some, it [the letter] was an eye-opener,” he said. “Others feel relieved that the pressure is off of them.”
Chris Laine, a senior, said the cancellation was “unfortunate, but you can’t really argue with the facts they present. ... It’s just what it’s evolved into. It’s not what it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. It’s turned into something it wasn’t originally intended to be.”
Besides, Laine noted, the senior class still has a four-day trip to Disney World in April.
“We go to all the parks with our friends,” he said before hopping into his black Infiniti and driving off to meet friends. “We fly down together and stay in the same hotel and so it’s not like we’re totally losing everything.” AP
I personally think all these school functions have sort of gotten out of hand. As a parent, I would not be paying for all the stuff that some kids want. Limos, dinners, parties. I might pay for the prom ticket itself, and give a specific dollar amount that the child could put toward their prom experience. I believe in kids earning the things they want. Parents can provide what is NEEDED.