Superintendent apologizes for ‘regrettable occurrence’ after special needs students were forced to leave prom early

A group of special needs students were made to leave their prom early, and parents are outraged. (Photo: Getty Images)
A group of special needs students were made to leave their prom early, and parents are outraged. (Photo: Getty Images)

06/06/2019 UPDATE: Hillsborough Township Public Schools issued an apology to the students and families impacted by the early dismissal of special needs students from prom. In a letter published to the school district’s website on Monday, Superintendent Jorden Schiff wrote that the occurrence was “an unfortunate mistake with heartbreaking ramifications.”

“The Board believes that this regrettable occurrence, which was hurtful to those students and families, should not reflect negatively on the hundreds of teachers, aides, and administrators who care deeply for the district’s special needs students, and who have done so for many, many years,” the letter read in part. “The Board again apologizes for these students’ earlier-than-anticipated dismissal from the senior prom, and sincerely hopes that the remainder of the school year for these students will be filled with the positive and enriching educational and extracurricular experiences that they truly deserve.”

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Families are demanding “immediate and severe action” after a group of special needs students at a New Jersey high school were escorted out of their senior prom early, despite numerous objections.

According to the parents of the students, nine disabled children attended Hillsborough High School’s senior prom on May 17, alongside two neurotypical friends and three district aides. And although they left their houses prepared for a wonderful evening, each of them came home feeling “traumatized” and “robbed” of the experience, parents say.

“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,” one of the student’s mothers, Deborah Myers-Eisenberger, said during a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday. “They were humiliated and herded out like sheep.”

Eisenberger explained that it was only 10:40pm when the students were collected to leave, although they weren’t supposed to head out until 11:15. In letters sent out districtwide, parents were told that prom was ending at 11:30 and no students were allowed to leave until 15 minutes prior.

She went on to say that she and the other parents made an effort to make each of the teens feel “as normal and typical as we could” by renting a limousine, helping the students get dressed and even hosting a pre-prom party for them to take photos together. But what the parents couldn’t have prepared them for was a last minute change of plans allegedly determined by the district aides.

Another mother, Katherine Trusky, shared that her daughter, Lily Doyle, was “traumatized” by the experience, after one of their special needs friends was escorted out of the event by hotel security.

According to Trusky’s recount of the evening, one of the boys who was provided with the limousine driver’s number attempted to call the driver to clarify the pickup time after the students asked the aides if they could stay. A district representative allegedly demanded that the student hand over his phone, and when he didn’t, security was called to escort him out.

“These students were embarrassed and humiliated and led out of their senior prom in a way that was not befitting an animal,” Trusky told the board.

Now, administrators from Hillsborough Township Public Schools are investigating the incident, although they tell Yahoo Lifestyle they cannot provide details.

“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,” a statement from Jorden Schiff, superintendent of Hillsborough Township Public Schools, reads. “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.”

Trusky asked that the district “take immediate and severe action to support your students and your community of students with special needs.”

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