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Students learn from mistakes

With April waning and final exam season approaching, those who worked hard all semester are getting burnt-out and those who procrastinated all semester are becoming frantic. It is easy to look back with envy to high school when this was prom season, and your biggest worries were coordinating looks with your date and snagging a deal on a beach house.

Prom, for the ladies, is a day of hair, nails and unforgivable betrayal, which usually takes the form of a violent dispute regarding dates or limo payments. And if we choose to accept "American Pie" as an accurate representation of what prom is like for the guys, then it is safe to say that the actual event is the last thing on their minds. 

But when it is all said and done, your high school prom is never more than a distant memory — kept alive only by the cache of photos your parents, grandparents and neighbors snapped of you and of a dozen of your best, and now most estranged, friends on the stairs and on the front lawn. When you reminisce about the day, it is probably over the wildly mischievous deeds you committed in the wee hours of the following morning and, more likely than not, those recollections are pretty fuzzy.

I wouldn't say that I am jealous of this year's lucky prom goers, but even with the obligatory catfights, I would trade any one of my finals for the dramas of prom night. And it seems as if some schools are finally figuring out how to make the event as memorable for students as it is portrayed to be in the movies. Except, instead of a fairytale evening, schools are providing students with radical policy changes that make the prom an affair to remember — especially because they will no longer have the opportunity to make the prom weekend memories that overshadow the party itself.

At my former high school, stringent attendance requirements are enforced the entire week after prom. Seniors are banned from their graduation ceremonies if they miss one day of classes without a doctor's note, and sophomores and juniors lose an entire semester of parking privileges for the infraction. However, other tri-state area schools are reported to be taking even harsher measures.

According to The New York Times, Pearl River High School in Rockland County has moved its junior prom to a Wednesday evening and senior prom to a Sunday, enforcing attendance requirements for the following school day. Other schools simply attempt to offer students an after-prom alternative that rivals renting a shore house. In Derby, Conn., prom will be followed by an evening of laser-tag, and Albertus Magnus High School in New York has scheduled a Disney World trip to coincide with prom.

It seems as if having the "Jersey Shore" cast to set the example for after-prom conduct has gotten schools particularly on edge. Yet, at what point does beefing up prom and after-prom rules infringe on more than simply students' fun? Some feel as if these new school policies are stepping on parents' toes, allowing schools to have too large a say in what is appropriate for their children.

My 18-year-old brother actually had the nerve to ask my parents to supply him with $120 worth of alcohol because he had missed the cut-off to pay for a spot in his friends' shore house and that is what he demanded to serve as a substitute. Needless to say, they were shocked at the request, said no and are still locked in a battle with him over his after-prom plans. He may be a stupid high school senior, but it is their responsibility, and not his school's, to guide and to punish him.

With school administrators taking these matters into their own hands, it can become degrading to parents. Almost suggesting that parents will not enforce the proper standards on their "Snooki" and "The Situation"-inspired prom goers. Mr. Bill Furdon, principal of Pearl River High School contends that his school's policies prevent kids from being able to say to their parents, "‘You're ruining my life.'" He seems to see the school as doing families a favor, by forcing students to resent their school instead of their parents.

But is it really appropriate for an educational institution to be taking such preemptive measures against after-prom shenanigans? Not only does it feel like they are parenting, but it also seems as if they are policing their students. The rest of the nation is given civil liberties and afforded the opportunity to break the law and then face the consequences; yet, these high school students are being denied their right to screw up. Even more bothersome is that schools are choosing to apply different policies during prom week than they do the rest of the year.

As a college student, no one is checking up on you to ensure you do not have a late night that will cost you a passing grade on your finals. Less than a year from now, many of these high school students will be at a university without overprotective school administrations or parents to watch their every move. Ultimately, at 18, they should know their boundaries, and have the ability to exercise personal judgment. I wouldn't say that it is too tea party-esque to assert that schools should not be taking something away from students as basic as the right to make decisions and, likewise, mistakes.

Larissa Klein is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English and art history. Her column "Definition of Insanity" runs on alternate Mondays.

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