According to Pittsburgh City Paper, Oakland Catholic High School, an all-girl parochial institution, may hold the least-attended school proms ever held anywhere. In 2008 approximately 100 couples attended the official school function. Last year, only 20 couples attended from a school of about 600 students.
School officials insist on approving prom dresses in advance. They cannot be too short, too low cut or expose too much of the wearer's back. I can't imagine that parents who pay $10,000/year in tuition for their daughters to learn to "lead lives of faith, courage, and commitment" ---according to the school's mission ---would permit their Catholic daughters to wear anything far from appropriate.
In addition, strict dance-floor policing can result in an attendee being assigned to a corner for a timeout.
As a result, for the past four years, students have held an alternative dance, commonly referred to as the "anti-prom." It is supervised by parents and police, but no one ends up in a corner like a naughty toddler.
Now, school officials have upped the "anti," so to speak. Faculty have been instructed to withdraw letters of recommendation to colleges for students who attend the alternative event or who complain about the official prom on social-networking sites.
Students have reported being told they will not be able to attend graduation if they attend the alternative dance.
Punishing students for an event not connected with the school is unethical and mean-spirited. Students who have worked for four long years toward graduation and done the work necessary to be admitted to college should not be punished for attending an event simply because it is not sanctioned by the strict Catholic school.
As a result of the school's official scare tactics (reportedly posted at www.oaklandcatholic.org, although I could not find them posted there) the organizers of the alternative event are calling their own dance the "Party of the Year," encouraging students to drop the "anti-prom" term, and scheduling the event for after graduation so that seniors will not be barred from graduation ceremonies. Students from other schools have been invited to attend so it doesn't seem so much of an act of defiance against Oakland Catholic.
Students lament that they need to resort to a substitute prom, but as one student said, school officials "treat [high school] kids like they are in kindergarten."
In my experience, being overly strict does not instill self-discipline ---after all, the strict discipline is being mandated from outside of the self. Instead, it results in resentment and rebellion.
Perhaps the students have started to think for themselves, and definitely to think outside of the strict, narrow confines of their church's box. I can't help but believe church and school officials are more afraid of that than of a few low-cut prom dresses.