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Tiaras and Tuxes


Spring is the season of formal balls and proms for high-school juniors and seniors and, increasingly, the event itself is just the beginning of a full night of formal fun. Proms usually take place between 7 p.m. and midnight but teens find that the night is still young after all the dressing up and dancing. Alcohol-free after-prom parties have become a common alternative for prolonging the fun.

Sadly, in many communities, it is the death or serious injuries of young people who overindulged on prom night that spurs a movement to organize safer options. Most school- and community-sponsored events are “limited-access” events where teens cannot leave until the party ends or until an adult arrives to pick them up. Others do not allow re-entry once a teen has left the party.

These post-prom parties are often a complete turnaround from the ball gowns, tuxedos, flowers and up-do hairstyles. Teens may trade their tiaras and tuxes for hoodies and jeans.

Seniors at East Syracuse-Minoa High School are encouraged to leave the driving to someone else. Students must be driven by limousine, parents or take a specially chartered bus to the prom location.

“We will transport students to the Lodge in Skaneateles,” says Pam Herrington, ESM prom adviser and science teacher; ESM’s prom is scheduled for June 2. “Then we transport them to the Skaneateles Community Center.”

Attractions at the center, including ice skating, pizza, a car giveaway and many other prizes, will keep teens at the post-prom party until 3 a.m. when they are returned by bus to the school for pick up by parents or other responsible adults. Because transportation is provided, school administrators are able to safeguard students and keep them from coming and going during the evening and early-morning hours.

An “after-formal informal” is planned for Fayetteville-Manlius High School’s June 3 senior ball at Erie Boulevard Bowling Center, according to assistant principal Robert Hughes. “The activities are organized by the student-teacher-parent association, with prizes ranging from $20 phone cards to dorm-sized refrigerators to iPods,” Hughes says.

With the help of about 20 volunteers and chaperones, students enjoy an assortment of snacks, sodas, subs and pizza. In order to be admitted to the event, students must sign up for it when they buy tickets to attend the ball. Students can also choose to forgo the ball and simply attend the informal.

On June 9, Syracuse’s Henninger High School continues a chemical-free program started several years ago. After the senior ball ends at midnight, students will meet at Mattydale’s Strike’n’Spare for free bowling, casino games, and prizes donated by local merchants and families. Supervised by school administrators and parents, students sign in at the door and remain at the party until it ends at 4 a.m. Students cannot return to the party if they leave.

“We’ve never had an issue with drugs or alcohol,” says Ellyn Gale, president of Henninger’s Parent Teacher Organization. “The students have all been together at the prom and just want to prolong the magic. It is a very successful event.”

Skaneateles High School’s senior ball, June 3, will be followed this year, as in the past, by an all-night extravaganza spearheaded by the school’s Parents And Community Together organization, says student counselor and PACT liaison Marcy Weed. “Students have been earning ‘funny money’ all year long, that they can use in the casino night games and auctions,” Weed says. “Along with great food and games, top prizes to be given away include iPods, laptops, and other electronic equipment.” The event is a limited-access party.

What parents should know about post-prom parties:
Ask questions. Don’t let your teen make you feel like a freak for requesting information on where they will be, at what time, who will be driving, who they’ll be hanging out with, and when to expect them home.

Call to verify. Regardless of the plans, parents should have some sense of security that those at the scene of the after-prom activity are mature and responsible. If the party is at another student’s home, call the parents hosting the party or contact other parents to check on their comfort level. Chances are if one parent feels uncomfortable about plans, others will, too.

Offer to help. Contribute snacks, sodas or funds to buy food for the gathering. Some post-prom parties have giveaways and contests with cool prizes. Most parents would rather donate a prize than worry where their teen will end up without an organized party to go to.

Make your rules clear. Before plans are finalized for the prom or after-prom activities, talk with your teen and their date or friends about your expectations and their responsibilities as young adults. Set your limits and stand firm, but be reasonable, too.

Build trust with your teen. Let them know where you stand on illegal and dangerous drug and alcohol use, and assure them that you’ll pick them up if they ever feel they are getting into an unsafe situation.

Some parents may adopt a “kids will be kids” attitude and turn a blind eye on underage drinking. They may recall their own high-school days and assume that because they used alcohol and nothing bad happened to them, that things will be the same for their teen. Today, teens are more likely to mix alcohol with other dangerous substances, and may have better access to heavy-duty drugs.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Although young drivers are less likely than adults to drive after drinking alcohol, their crash risk is substantially higher when they do.” Young drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of 0.05 to 0.08 percent (below the legal intoxication level) are far more likely than sober teen-agers to be killed in single-vehicle crashes.

High-school students may seem more sophisticated and aware these days, yet they are still heavily influenced by peer pressure and might try things they know they shouldn’t do just to fit in.

It is a violation of New York law to sell, give or make available any alcoholic beverages to a person younger than the legal drinking age of 21. Using a false ID carries penalties ranging from misdemeanor to a class D felony for forgery.

Prom night is a special time in a teen’s life, a rite of passage to adulthood through practicing elegant rituals of dressing up and dancing, and it will certainly be an exceptional time to remember for those who act responsibly and with maturity. Support your local school or community’s sponsored events to keep teens safe and with many more special events to follow.

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York