Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Homecoming Dance: Parent Awareness & Student Support

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Greetings Upper School Parents:

As we approach MVS Homecoming weekend, I want to communicate clearly and directly to you some expectations for student behavior at the dance.  The homecoming dance occurs on Saturday, 24 September from 8-11:00PM in the MVS Alumni Black Box Theater.  The Student Government is providing light snacks and water.

Homecoming season is often depicted as a rite of passage, celebrating friendships, honoring school spirit, and looking forward to the approach of Autumn.  I anticipate this year’s homecoming dance to be an enjoyable event, under the careful planning of the Student Government. However, as is the case in many school cultures, school dances and similar evening events also raise anxieties about potential student at-risk behavior, including drinking, unsafe driving, and other potential dangers. Throughout the year, but particularly during Homecoming and Prom seasons, tragic incidents are captured in the local and national press, reinforcing the fragility of human life and the potential dangers of adolescent vulnerabilities. Such incidents can be devastating to any community; as adults, we are prudent to be concerned with the safety of our children.

As we did last Spring at MVS Prom, for the added protection of our students (and for increased peace of mind for parents and teachers), we will administer individual Breathalyzer tests to all students attending the homecoming dance. MVS recently purchased a new device, recommended both by law enforcement and substance counseling programs, which is quicker and more accurate than the paper test-strips we used at Prom.  The use of these tests is to affirm that our students are safe and secure, as well as to reduce suspicions about at-risk behaviors at MVS events. As a school, MVS will not tolerate any student drinking or illegal substance use before or during Homecoming; to that end, we will be vigilant in our monitoring of student conduct.

If your student is attending the homecoming dance (which we hope is the case), I encourage you to have candid discussions with your child (as well as with her or his friends) about the important topics of safety and responsible decision making, carefully reviewing their plans, your expectations, and communicating directly with other parents regarding any questions you might have.

As parents, I request your assistance in modeling proactive, responsible decision making by our students. Please resist any temptation to offer alcohol to any students, even as a ceremonial toast or glass of champagne, especially since such actions are in stark conflict with MVS school policy, not to mention state laws. Such offers place students in an unnecessarily precarious dilemma. If your daughter or son is traveling in a limousine or carpooling with a group of friends, please take the time to ask, then check to confirm, that there are no “smuggled containers or substances” inside. It is better to be safe now, rather than remorseful later. If students (or you, their parents) still feel compelled to promote at-risk activities, they are cautioned to avoid Homecoming entirely. Any student, whom chaperones suspect to be under the influence, will be denied from entering the dance and, as a result, we will phone you, as their parents, to come pick him or her up.

Chaperones (me included), who agree to work in support of student events (without whom, there simply would be no Homecoming) will use their best judgment in assessing student conduct; however, these decisions will be at the discretion of faculty chaperones, Bryan Lakatos (as Student Government Advisor), and me. I encourage you to be candid with your daughter or son in all conversations surrounding alcohol, drug use, or other at-risk behaviors.  Any violation of the alcohol and drug policy at or around an MVS event may result in serious consequences, up to and including suspension or expulsion. The potential dangers of unsafe driving raise further concerns. Our hope is that through active and direct discussions, transcending both home and school, such matters can be avoided entirely, thus allowing everyone at the dance to safely enjoy the events as they are intended.

In the interest of promoting student safety, students will not be allowed to leave the dance before its conclusion without first contacting a parent. All students are to arrive at the homecoming dance by 9:00PM. If any student arrives late, or asks to leave early, we will have him or her phone a parent directly before leaving. Once a student has officially departed from the dance (having contacted a parent first), she or he will not be permitted to re-enter the event. Students are expected to cooperate fully with chaperones, volunteers, and staff at these events. Attendance at Homecoming is a privilege, requiring an appropriate degree of student (and parent) responsibility. We look forward to enjoying these activities with your child; however, in the interest of student safety, we will be attentive to monitoring student behavior and conduct.

Again, as partners in the essential support of MVS students, please encourage your child (and her or his peers) to use sound judgment in making Homecoming a wonderful, enjoyable, and safe night for all involved. Should you have any specific questions regarding the dance, please contact Bryan Lakatos (as Student Government Advisor) or me.

With sincere regards,

Sam Wagner
Head of Upper School

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