Editorials

Lucia Mar school district needs a lesson after denying student prom

Jared Springer, a senior at Arroyo Grande High School, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014. He was told last week that he could not attend prom last Saturday because of absences related to a hip injury. Here he is pictured wearing what he planned to wear to the dance.
Jared Springer, a senior at Arroyo Grande High School, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014. He was told last week that he could not attend prom last Saturday because of absences related to a hip injury. Here he is pictured wearing what he planned to wear to the dance.

It requires only a fraction of an ounce of human compassion to recognize that Jared Springer should have been allowed to attend the Arroyo Grande High School prom.

But because his medical condition has prevented him from attending classes on campus, Jared was not allowed to go to prom. He and his date had to settle for dinner at the Madonna Inn on Saturday while their classmates gathered elsewhere for a night of dancing and socializing.

Some background: Jared was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014, and following two surgeries and a year of chemotherapy, he returned to Arroyo Grande High School for this, his senior year. Jared, who uses a wheelchair, was recently dealt a setback when he fell out of his chair and broke his hip. Jared has been unable to return to his regular classes for the past few weeks, but he had been looking forward to attending prom.

Then the bureaucrats got wind of his plans.

Lucia Mar Unified School District officials invoked a school district policy that prohibits students who are unable to attend school from participating in extracurricular functions, such as school dances. Apparently, exceptions to that policy can be made, but by the time Jared’s parents were informed of all the hoops they would have to jump through, it was too late for Jared and his date.

That’s absurd.

We have to ask, what kind of lesson does it teach students when district officials hide behind a policy that allows them to discriminate against a student dealing with a major illness and injury?

District officials should have been thrilled that Jared was feeling well enough to attend his prom. They should have done everything in their power — up to and including calling an emergency meeting of the school board — to bypass any policy preventing his attendance. And they should have welcomed Jared lovingly and enthusiastically to prom.

Yet according to an account of the incident posted on Facebook by Jared’s father, Frank Springer, officials did not respond to the family’s inquiries in a timely manner, and when they did, someone at the district office “tried to say he could attend prom next year and that it would be difficult to arrange accommodations for him.”

How heartless.

Jared is due to graduate this year, which means this was his last opportunity to go to prom.

District officials have since apologized to Jared and his family. The district also held a news conference Tuesday, where Superintendent Raynee Daley announced that she and her staff are examining how the decision was made and how similar situations can be prevented in the future. The district also is helping with the organization of another event on May 27 — called A Prom for Jared — being sponsored by Brighten a Corner Ministry.

That’s a start. The district certainly should re-examine a policy that would allow such a travesty to occur.

Still, an apology doesn’t change the fact that Jared was denied an opportunity to celebrate a rite of passage with his Arroyo Grande High School classmates. As his father so aptly described in his Facebook post, “He deserved to be able to go, he deserved to enjoy the moment, enjoy the music and feel good about himself.”

One final note: Jared’s parents have been gracious throughout this ordeal. They have accepted the district’s apology and have acknowledged and thanked Arroyo Grande High School and the school district for the services they’ve provided to Jared, and for their willingness to learn from this incident.

That’s a great lesson in forgiveness and compassion — we urge the Lucia Mar Unified School District to take it to heart.

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