Prom. It's the big night that you've been waiting for basically all of your life. It's the one occasion where you get to rock fabulous gowns, glamorous dresses, and stylish suits and dance the night away with your besties. It's one of the most anticipated events of high school that you may have been dreaming about since you were little.
So as soon as you enter high school, you may wonder when you can actually go to prom. Do you have to wait until senior year? What if you have an older SO — can you go with them even if you aren't a senior? The answer to these questions can actually be a bit complex. Figuring out the prom age minimum and limit depends on your school district's policies regarding the big night.
Seniors aren't the only students that get to enjoy prom. Some lucky third-year students get a special celebration of their own in the form of junior prom. This dance is a fun place where juniors get a headstart on celebrating their accomplishments. Junior proms are typically a bit less over-the-top than senior proms because most schools and students reserve bigger budgets for venues, props, hair, and outfits for the last hurrah.
Some schools, like Middlefield, Ohio's Cardinal High School, have enacted school board policies prohibiting students from bringing anyone 21 or older as their prom date. This May, an 18-year-old senior called the policy into question because she wanted to bring her boyfriend and high school sweetheart to prom, but her date turned 21 shortly before the dance. Despite the teen's attempts, Middlefield officials refused to adjust the policy, although the two students had met and begun dating when they both were enrolled at Cardinal High. According to The News-Herald, Superintendent Clint Keener explained that the rule protects students from including someone old enough to purchase alcohol legally. "It reduces an opportunity that we don't want students to have," Keener said. "We are trying to be preventative and proactive."
Other schools, like Westfield High School in Westfield, New Jersey, have adopted a seniors-only attendance policy. According to Tap into Westfield, School Superintendent Margaret Dolan empathized with students who wanted to bring first- and second-year students as prom dates but stood by the district's decision only to allow seniors to attend. "We understand that if your date is a different year than you, it is very difficult," she said.
While some schools have very strict policies limiting the age and the class standings of people allowed to attend prom, others have a more lenient stipulation that allows juniors to celebrate in a hybrid, junior-senior style prom. And some schools allow for students in any grade to attend if they accompany a senior. But not everyone is a fan of this system. Some students would prefer to keep prom for seniors only, and petitions have been launched on Change.org to keep younger students out of the big night due to maturity concerns and possibly stealing the spotlight away from the upcoming graduates.
Prom is such a special night. To ensure it goes off without a hitch, contact your local school board with questions about who is eligible to attend your school's prom.
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