TAMPA — Prom season is in full swing and for some Hillsborough County teens, that means donning tuxedos or ball gowns and piling into a party bus or limousine for the big night.
Not all students will have that option, though.
Some schools don’t allow prom-goers to book a party bus or a limo. Instead, students are expected to drive themselves or get dropped off by their parents.
One such school is Robinson High School, where Johnny Bush has enforced the no-party-bus rule since he became principal there in February 2012.
“As a principal, you never stop thinking about the worst possible things that could happen,” Bush said.
Prohibiting party buses is meant to curb the under-age drinking that tends to happen inside of them before and after school dances. In 2009, one student needed medical assistance and several more were suspended after drinking alcohol on a party bus on the way to Durant High School’s homecoming dance. The incident prompted the school board at the time to wonder if the rules needed to be tightened.
In the weeks leading up to prom, school administrators have been organizing presentations for the upperclassmen about prom night safety, planning for extra security for the dance, meeting with parents and approving students’ dates who attend other schools.
Robinson senior Kailey Fernandez, 18, said she and many of her peers believe they should have been able to take party buses to prom.
“Students feel it’s their right, and it’s a good way to get kids in one vehicle so they don’t have to take a bunch of cars,” she said.
The rules that students are expected to stick to on prom night, including rules on how they get to the prom, vary from school to school, district spokesman Stephen Hegarty said.
Bush said the most common discipline-worthy incidents at school dances tend to be drinking alcohol before or during the event, fighting, trespassing and inappropriate dancing.
“The dancing is not like it was when I was in high school,” he said.
The school also enforces what he calls the “arm-band rule.”
“Everyone has to have an arm band,” Bush said. “If there’s something inappropriate we have to talk to you about, it’s a warning. Second time, we cut your arm band off. Third time, you go home.”
No arm bands were snipped at Saturday’s prom, which was attended by about 250 students, Bush said. He was happy to report it was a drama-free night.
“Their behavior was phenomenal,” he said.
At Plant High School’s prom on Saturday, students will be allowed to arrive in party buses and limos.
Principal Robert Nelson said the school focuses on doing a lot of outreach to students, as well as their parents.
“I’m not a big party bus fan,” he said. “We do allow it. I know that’s part of the season. I think a lot of it is educating the parents on what a party bus entails. Do you know the other parents whose kids are riding on the party bus? Where’s the party bus going after the dance?’’
The school resource officer will be on hand to greet students as they arrive, and students won’t be allowed to go in and out of the dance, Nelson said.
The school also has scheduled a Thursday morning assembly for juniors and seniors about the dangers of drunk driving.
“They know what’s on the line as far as consequences,” Nelson said. “We talk to them on how to deal with peer pressure. We want the kids to enjoy the night, but obviously safety is No. 1.”