"Prom Reminders" by Head of School Bob Henderson
Dear Nobles upper school parents,
I feel like a senior; in three months I will have my last day at Nobles. I intend to enjoy every remaining minute, and for that reason I particularly hope that we have a smooth and joyous end to the school year. This year has already had its share of immense challenges, yet it also has been wonderful in many ways, demonstrating the strength of our bonds and compassion. The final weeks of the year will fly by, as they always seems to, as we race to graduation and final exams. It is my urgent intention to press parents to do all they can to ensure we have a safe and happy spring.
Annually, I enter this season with deep concern for the welfare of our students. This is not because I do not trust and admire them — I do. Rather, after nearly four decades of working in schools, I have developed well founded worries about student behavior and decisions as we advance toward the finish line. I am compelled annually to implore parents to take these words seriously; exuberance, combined with an adolescent’s sense of immortality, and enhanced by the pressures of peer relationships, can interact with unintended sad or tragic consequences, especially as the year draws to a close. Too many of the wonderful young people whom we love and support sometimes take frightening chances or make poor choices that imperil their physical and psychological health.
I also strongly encourage all parents to establish clear and appropriate boundaries for their children in regard to behavior. I understand that for many of you this battle can become more difficult with every passing month, but I hope to reinforce with you how important it is that you continue to uphold very high expectations for your kids. Please do not wait until something unfortunate happens to have these discussions. This time of year, with the Prom and so many “closure” events, demands particular vigilance.
The arrival of the Prom each April galvanizes these conversations in the homes of our families, and this letter is intended in part to stimulate that process. Let me be clear about some of the details regarding our Prom. All members of Classes I and II are invited, but sometimes they invite members of Class III as dates to attend as well. Moreover, there may be other social events associated with prom night, so all upper school parents should be aware if their children have any plans to be out that evening.
The Prom is on Saturday, April 22 from 9:00 p.m. to midnight at the Battery Wharf Hotel in Boston. The Prom is chaperoned by members of the Nobles faculty, and students have been exceptionally well behaved in recent years. In its current traditional format, it has been a notably successful event, well supported by students.
All Class I students, their dates and parents will be offered the opportunity to take group photos on the balcony of the Castle beginning at 5:00 p.m. and ending at 6:30 p.m. All Class II students will be offered the same optional opportunity in the Arts Center and, weather permitting, in the area known as “The Beach.” The school is also sponsoring and chaperoning the dinner for Classes I and II and their dates prior to the Prom at Maggiano’s Little Italy at 4 Columbus Drive in Boston, from 7:15 to 9:00 p.m. While students going to the Prom are not required to attend this event, the vast majority of them will choose to; it is a fun, inclusive and uncomplicated gathering that sets up the evening well.
Parents should be aware that the School has not adopted the all-night party approach to the Prom because the Nobles faculty has no interest in taking on this responsibility. From the School’s point of view this event is over at midnight. The responsibility for the rest of the night lies with parents, and we believe that parents who want to require their children home at a certain hour should not be confronted by a different message from the school.
The Prom and the dinner before it are school events and all school rules apply, particularly the rule against the use of alcohol and other drugs. It would be a great tragedy if a member of Classes I or II faced dismissal from school at this point in her or his career, and I would appreciate it if you would review the rules and possible penalties with your child. I caution particularly against the consumption of alcohol or other drugs before arrival at the Prom because such an activity is equivalent, under the school rules, to consumption on the premises.
As mentioned above, we believe strongly that parents must take firm responsibility for the evening after the Prom. Indeed, I hope that parents will be especially vigilant in this regard. It is not the case that all or even most students will have after-prom plans, nor should parents concede that this is appropriate or necessary. But in case students do have such intentions, parents should communicate directly with each other. If your child’s plans seem unclear to you, or if they make you at all uncomfortable, ask more questions and follow your instincts. I also strongly discourage you from allowing your children to go to homes that evening where you know that appropriate behavior from students has not been expected in the past. To have your child upset with you because you say “no” is certainly far preferable to compromising health or safety. As you also are aware, the school has asserted a clear and strong disciplinary position in regard to students hosting or organizing large, unsupervised parties, and it would be wise to review that policy, and the associated disciplinary penalties, with your sons and daughters as well.
It is important in this regard to remember that Massachusetts law explicitly prohibits adult hosts from permitting alcohol to be consumed by minors (other than their own children) in their homes or under their supervision. This statute has been construed to include some circumstances where adults are not immediately or physically present. Needless to say, such choices, however well meaning, expose you to civil and criminal liability, and you may unintentionally place some young people at great risk. Choosing to do this is, frankly, both irresponsible and unsupportive of the school because such social events compromise the culture and health of this community and our students.
Prom night has historically been one of the safest of the year for our students because parents and the school pay such extraordinarily close attention to student plans and behavior. I am grateful for this investment of diligent care and concern by parents. To be honest, however, I worry much more about every other weekend as the spring advances. On these occasions, vigilance tends to be lower and the potential for unfortunate decisions is consequently higher. Please be aware of this as the year draws toward its close.
It is difficult to navigate all this as a parent; I well understand this from personal experience as a parent of teenagers. I share these worries directly with you because they will provide you with a good opportunity to open conversation once again with your children on these matters. We need our students to take care of each other, and we in turn must always play the role of the adults; we can be effective friends and mentors, but never peers. They count on us to do that, no matter how much they may resist and complain.
Please do your best to encourage safe and appropriate behavior from students at all times, but especially as the exuberance of spring builds. Anything you do in this regard will be greatly appreciated not only by me and by the entire faculty of the school, but also by other parents.
Robert P. Henderson, Jr.
Head of School