Hickman prom schedule raises religious conflict

Friday, January 21, 2011 | 9:35 p.m. CST; updated 9:15 a.m. CST, Sunday, January 23, 2011

COLUMBIA — Tracey Conrad, principal of Hickman High School, acknowledges it's not ideal to hold prom on Good Friday. But, she said her options were limited. She said she could not find an affordable venue large enough to hold the prom on another, more desirable day.

“We certainly want to be cognizant and aware of the conflicts some of the students may have,” Conrad said. She said she had to make a decision in the best interest of all the students.

Still, the scheduling so troubled Hickman alumnus Jeffrey Pauls he said he felt compelled to send Conrad an e-mail Friday.

“The festive nature of prom is such an important event,” he said. “It should be exciting, and they should have a good time, but that superimposed on the most solemn day of the Christian calendar — it’s just impossible to have them both on the same day.”

In the Christian religion, Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The holy day, which falls on April 22, is two days before Easter.

Friday nights are also part of the Jewish Sabbath and are holy days in Islam.

Conrad said Hickman contacted 15 possible venues last April but found only three large enough for the high school prom. One venue did not have any openings for the desired days. A second venue had a Saturday night opening another week, but it cost $4,000 more than the venue Hickman chose, which was Memorial Union, she said.

“In order to rent the venue, they would have had to increase (the cost of) prom tickets tremendously,” Conrad said. “We thought that would lower attendance even more so.”

Conrad said the available dates for Memorial Union included the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before Easter Sunday. After consulting the assistant superintendent Wanda Brown, Conrad said she decided Friday was the best option because Saturday is the day before Easter and Thursday is a school night.

Columbia resident Kris Pauls, the mother of two Hickman graduates, including Jeffrey Pauls, said she has been trying to persuade the school to change the prom date since she heard about it on the radio. She said she sent an e-mail to Jan Mees, president of the school board, who forwarded the e-mail to Conrad and Brown. She said she also sent e-mails to local Catholic parishes.

Conrad replied to Kris Pauls and explained the limitations, but she said she thought Hickman should consider alternatives.

Kris Pauls said she proposed changing the venue to the Hickman commons area or gymnasium, even though those locations are not as impressive.

“It seems to me the commons area and gym would be big enough,” she said. “I think it would be worth it so families aren’t having to make that decision when the time comes.”

Jeffrey Pauls, said he went to his senior prom with the woman who is now his wife.

“That was an important event in our lives that we shared with each other,” Jeffrey Pauls said. “It would have been a big issue for me.”

Jeffrey Pauls said he would like Hickman to consider alternatives, such as raising the extra $4,000 needed to change the venue through fundraisers.

He said if community organizations — like church or youth groups — were involved, it would be possible to raise the additional funds.

Conrad said she had not heard any other complaints about the prom date.

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Michael Williams January 22, 2011 | 8:34 a.m.

What an odd summary of this article on the "News" page.

It's not just an important day for Catholics.
It's an important day for ALL Christians. Did the supervisor of the Missourian department entitled "Folks Who Think Up Article Summaries" not know what Good Friday is?

And you waited until NOW (January?) to book a venue for this large event because............?

(PS: My prom was in our school gymnasium. We students decorated it beforehand, and we even had a live band. It was lots of fun. I guess we didn't know it was a crumby place.)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 22, 2011 | 8:47 a.m.

Michael Williams:

Cool! And you guys actually HAD a gymnasium. Seriously, these things are often as good as what you choose to make of them.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 22, 2011 | 9:11 a.m.



And to think I actually thought the decorations on the basketball hoops were waaaaaay cool. What a maroon....

Yes, things are as good as we make them. That's another "notion" that's been lost....among many other things.

(Report Comment)
Gregory Brown January 22, 2011 | 10:18 a.m.

Generally, secular events in public schools should go on at convenient times. In this case, though, the scheduling of a social event on a day and date that forces students of three faiths to choose between whatever they feel are personal religious obligations and a festive rite of passage is ludicrous and verges on being offensive. Finding a venue that was affordable and adequate and available at another time should have been a priority far in advance.

I am personally appalled at the way things like proms, weddings and other "pseudo events" have degenerated from occasions of fun and celebration to opportunities for ostentatious display, expenditures of huge amounts of money in competitive consumption, and field days for commercial providers of overpriced junk. Poor kids and their families are pressed to pay exorbitantly to take part, and may become so stressed that the supposedly happy time becomes an ordeal. This is another step along the way toward training up consumers to be exploited in a set of false values.

Setting up in the school commons area may be less chic, elegant and flashy, but the money saved could be used for less expensive admission tickets, better refreshments, maybe a better band. Or two bands.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 22, 2011 | 10:48 a.m.

Thank gawd it was only Good Friday.
Lord knows what kinda stink we woulda had if the only date left was some other religion's holiday.

(Report Comment)
Kellie Kotraba January 22, 2011 | 4:30 p.m.

@Michael Williams

I'm one of the copy editors at the Missourian. Thank you for your observation about the article summary. Your comment has been noted, and the summary has been changed.

(Report Comment)
Catherine Newhouse January 22, 2011 | 6:04 p.m.

Thank you for your comments. I am the reporter for this story. Regarding Michael Williams's first comment, I should clarify that the prom date decision was made last April after the 15 venues were contacted.

(Report Comment)
Tom de Plume January 22, 2011 | 6:39 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Michael Williams January 22, 2011 | 11:45 p.m.

I will be blunt.

It is ok, if not fashionable, for many American citizens to ignore the sensitivities of Christian Americans, yet be sensitive to folks of other religions under the same circumstances. Given all I have seen, heard, and read over the last 20 years, I'm absolutely confident that school officials would NOT have scheduled this event on a holy holiday of any other religion, for the simple reason they would be publicly accused of insensitivity, unfairness, and...especially...blatant bias.

Perhaps most of the prom attendees (students) don't care about Good Friday and Easter. Perhaps they are thinking of other things besides religion. Perhaps they just want to have a good time. But I guarantee there are at least SOME students that DO care and, by this administrator's decision, they will be forced to choose between their religious commitments and an event to which they have looked forward, probably for years. And THAT is insensitive, unfair, and especially (fashionably?) biased against Christian students.

I submit that the Principal's options were NOT limited. As posted by others above, it is not necessary to have the prom at a Taj Mahal. Be creative! Use the students and their creativity! Save them, and their families, money. To paraphrase Ellis above, teach your students...just a little bit...that "things are often as good as what [they] choose to make of them."

It's a "teaching moment", in more ways than one. It's also the right thing to do.

And, just for once, it would be consistent.

(Report Comment)
Gregory Brown January 23, 2011 | 9:39 a.m.

Bravo to Michael Williams. it's good to have 2 reasonable voices on board. Our approaches are a bit different but I think we agree on the basics.

(Report Comment)

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