Parent unhappy with dance guest policy

Photo Credit: MGN Online

GRANVILLE, Mass. (The Westfield News) – A resident is seeking an apology from the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District following what she said was a misunderstanding at a school dance. Wendy Gaunt’s daughter was told her date could not enter the middle school semi-formal dance held at Powder Mill Middle School April 11th because he was not a student in the district.

“My daughter told me that day that the principal said she couldn’t bring him, but I figured it was a misunderstanding,” said Gaunt. “I told her to bring him along.” When they arrived at the semi-formal, Gaunt’s daughter was told once again that her date could not enter. According to Gaunt, the principal told her daughter that she had been informed he could not attend and would not let him in.“I told her (the principal) that I said to bring him,” said Gaunt. “He is a Granville resident. He goes to a private school and he is enrolled in the district for the fall, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for him to see the social side of the school. I told her I thought it must have been a misunderstanding.”Gaunt said she didn’t understand why it was “a big deal.”

Superintendent Dr. John Barry said the student was told not to bring the boy to the dance.“She was told very clearly by the principal that he could not come because he was not a student in the district,” Barry said. Barry said the district has a “long-standing past practice” of only allowing enrolled students at dances. Gaunt said her daughter was very upset.“Something she is working on is self-advocating,” said Gaunt. “This was a great opportunity for her to do that. It took her a few weeks to get up the nerve to ask this boy to go with her and she spent time picking out her dress and shoes and getting ready – they want her to self advocate, but I don’t think the principal considered all of this.”

Gaunt said she ended up contacting her lawyer after the incident. Her lawyer instructed her to ask the principal to show her the rules and regulations that state a student must be in the district to attend a dance. Gaunt said when she confronted the principal at the school, she was asked to leave the school or the police would be called. A letter was written to the school department by Gaunt’s attorney. Gaunt said she received a reply that it has always been the practice of the district. Barry said the practice is not a written policy in the handbook but it would be added after this situation in order to prevent a future conflict.

Gaunt said all she wants is an apology for her daughter.“A lot of preparation went into this and it is a big deal for kids that age,” Gaunt said. “I think as an involved parent I should have a say in who my daughter brings as a date to a dance. We just want an apology.”

The district maintains that the policy was clearly stated to the student prior to the event and she was specifically told that her date would not be allowed into the dance. Both Westfield and Gateway Regional have similar unwritten policies. An administrative assistant at South Middle School said that students not enrolled at South Middle are permitted only to the end of year dance and only with prior written permission. All other school dances are for South Middle students only. At Gateway, students out of district are allowed at semi-formal dances and the prom, also with written permission and approval from the central office administration. Gateway’s policy is also an unwritten, longstanding practice.

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Media Credit: The Westfield News

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