BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Prom season has arrived, and soon high school students will be occupied with dresses, tuxes, flowers and limos.
But for school administrators – their concerns are on keeping those students safe. It’s a historically dangerous night, known for mixing alcohol with risky decisions.
Schools throughout Rhode Island are throwing after-prom parties to keep watch over prom-goers from sundown to sunup, and one district has now developed a way to get the community to pay for the event.
Barrington High School will be transformed into a carnival, complete with bounce houses, palm readers, a casino and prizes galore – all free of charge to students. School officials hope the attractions will entice students to attend the after-prom event, which in its 14th year is the longest-running in the state.
According to AAA, the number of teenagers that die in car crashes peaks during the summer months – starting with prom season. Each year, 399 teens are killed between May and August.
Barrington High School Principal Joseph Hurley believes stats like that underline the importance of having a safe alternative to the typical post-prom activities.
“The proms of old, with drinking either at the prom or after the prom, and that was a huge issue in this town and throughout the state,” he explained. “We’ve done something I think that is not only created a safe place and a fun place for the kids, but also just a night for parents so you don’t really have to worry about your children.”
Like other school dances, students in Barrington undergo a breathalyzer test at the door both before and after prom, and parents are notified if students leave early.
It may seem like the precautions would cause students to turn away from the post-prom event, but the student planners of this year’s prom said 80 to 90 percent of seniors attend.
“You hear people say in the hallways now, they’re like ‘are you going to prom?’ and they’re like ‘yeah, but I’m just going for after-prom,'” said organizer Kim Kelly. “It’s a whole different dynamic, where things have switched and you really just want to go for this event itself.”
More and more districts throughout the state are throwing similar parties, such as Warwick, West Warwick, North Providence and East Greenwich.
The events don’t come cheap though. With the prizes, food, drinks and decorations costing upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, Barrington’s event planners are getting the community to pay it forward to keep everyone safe.
“We ask everyone, all parents in the town, regardless of what grade their children are in, to donate to the cause,” added Kelly. “Soon their kids are going to be seniors, and they want the same behavior to be pulled towards them.”
Parent organizers from Barrington’s after-prom party said they’ve had visitors from other districts come to the yearly event to research how to fund and organize one of their own.