Herricks eyes prom change in name of safety

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James Ruck, the Herricks high school principal, speaks at the Herricks school board meeting on Thursday, May 4 2017. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

Herricks High School administrators plan to hold graduation rehearsal for seniors the morning after prom next year, changing what some call a rite of passage.

Prom is currently held on a Thursday night in June, a week before graduation the following Thursday, Superintendent Fino Celano said.

But next year it will be moved to the Thursday night before commencement on Saturday, with rehearsal on Friday morning,

The move is aimed at giving students less of an opportunity to party through the weekend, reducing the risk of someone getting hurt or worse, high school principal James Ruck said.

“We’ll never know for sure, I do believe that making this change, over time, will save some kids’ lives,” Celano said at Thursday’s Herricks school board meeting.

Ruck said he knows of seven other North Shore high schools that have made similar moves in recent years with good outcomes.

Many high school seniors rent beach houses in places like the Hamptons for the weekend after prom or make other plans to celebrate with friends, parents and school officials said at the meeting.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2015, teenagers died in car crashes most often in May, June and August — during prom and graduation season. October was another month with a high number of deaths.

Ruck announced the move to parents in a recent email. Much of the feedback has been positive, he said, but many have questioned the change.

One parent spoke up against it Thursday, saying he thinks it takes away freedom from both students and parents.

“The way it read was that I sort of got my rights stripped away to decide what to do with my child,” said the man, who did not state his name.

Another parent questioned the wisdom of holding graduation rehearsal at 10 a.m., saying it would make prom feel like a school night.

Ruck said the start time is not set in stone. He will continue to gather feedback from students and parents before finalizing next year’s schedule, he said.

Students could still go spend the day with their friends after graduation rehearsal, Ruck said.

In addition to keeping students safer, officials said they think the move will take pressure off students who won’t want to party and reduce tension between students when prom comes around.

“I feel like doing it this way is a little bit more inclusive of a lot of students,” school board Vice President Christine Turner said.

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