Prom policy changes on split vote

DELANO, MN – Monday, the Delano School Board approved a government-mandated meal price increase, bread and milk vendors, the Wright Technical Center’s long-term facility maintenance program budget, and a new boys swimming cooperative.

Amidst a full agenda, the Delano High School handbook, specifically the school’s prom policy, garnered the most discussion for the second month in a row before being approved as proposed on a 5-2 vote, with board members Carolyn Milano and Rachel Depa opposed.

With approval of the handbook language as proposed by Principal Steve Heil, following review by the DHS site-based leadership team, prom will be a junior and senior event, with younger students not eligible to attend.

Before the 5-2, Milano made and Depa seconded a motion to approve the handbook without the prom policy change until it can be further reviewed, but the motion died on a 2-5 vote.

“The reason I want to make these changes is the current language really needs to be clarified,” Milano said.

She raised concerns about the pre-registration and vetting process, the lack of a minimum age to attend prom, and no language limiting students to only have one guest at prom.

School board member Al Briesemeister did not like the idea of delaying a portion of the handbook.

“If we’re going to approve everything but that, we’re putting that back to square one,” he said.

Milano said prom language could be added as an addendum in September after review.

She asked for the limitation on prom participation to be reconsidered and to take into account the maturity of students.

“It’s arbitrary to say sophomores aren’t allowed,” Milano said. “I’m giving my sophomore a car every day to drive. He better be very mature to drive a vehicle.”

Depa agreed, saying that there are many sophomores who are the same age as many juniors.

“It’s arbitrary to say, ‘This 16 year old can go, but this one isn’t mature enough,’” Depa said.

When school board member Amy Johnson asked how many schools limit prom participation based on grade level, Heil said it’s “inconsistent,” with schools like Orono limiting participation to juniors and seniors, while schools like Wayzata allow freshmen and sophomores to attend.

Johnson also asked if parents had contacted Heil about the change, and he said, “I haven’t really received feedback on the change. I only hear about it when a sophomore wants to go and there’s some kind of issue.”

Board member Corey Black suggested following the recommendation made by Heil and the site-based leadership team.

“We go through a painstaking process of hiring competent administrators,” Black said. “Something such as this needs to be left to them . . . They know the students. They know when they should and shouldn’t make changes.”

“You’ve done research and are putting this forward,” Black told Heil. “As a school board member, I support that. It’s way out of my area of expertise.”

Though Milano disagreed with the prom policy in the handbook, she was happy with a change Heil made to the language regarding what kind of outerwear can be worn in schools.

See more coverage of the meeting in the May 25 edition of the Delano Herald Journal.

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