2017-04-21 / Front Page

High school officials say prom bus is a safer option

By Stephanie Bertholdo

Danny Romo, an 18-year-old senior at Adolfo Camarillo High School, hoped to drive his girlfriend to the prom next month in his lovingly restored 1968 Volkswagen Beetle.

He knew obtaining permission to use his own car for the coming of age event May 13 at The Vineyards in Simi Valley was a long shot, but he figured that because his mom had been allowed to drive in a private car from the same high school to her prom, perhaps he could sway administrators to allow him to follow a family tradition.

But the special request was a nonstarter from the get-go because a decision had already been made not to allow private cars or limousines that students typically take to school proms. Instead, the school’s parent-teacher-student association and the site council decided that a luxury chartered bus would be the only means of transportation offered to students if they aren’t taken by a parent.

Potential prom-goers were not happy with the decision that was announced in January.

Several students took the new requirement as a call to action and passed around a petition to strike down the rule. Three hundred students signed the petition, which outlines some of the reasons the travel requirement is putting a damper on their night to remember.

The petition states that many students have pre- and post-prom plans that will conflict with the bus schedule. Others had planned on leaving prom early to attend other events. Some students noted that they experience motion sickness to the extent that they have missed out on field trips when buses were used.

And there are 18-year-old students who, as legal adults, don’t appreciate being treated like children.

The petition sent to administrators was signed off by the ACHS senior class. Another opposition letter that was distributed to students suggested administrators use breath analyzers like they do at Hueneme High School if they’re worried about students driving under the influence.

But the decision had been made. Seniors who want to attend the prom have to either take the bus to and from the event or have one of their parents drop them off and pick them up.

Danny believed the decision to use a prom bus was made to adhere to a former principal’s vow that once the prom changed venues from the Spanish Hills Country Club in Camarillo a bus would be the mandated transportation. The new principal, he said, was trying to honor that rule.

But Principal Kim Stephenson denies the change-of-venue motive for the bus rule. The decision was made by the PTSA and school site council months ago, she said.

“Our community is super supportive of having fun and safe options for students,” Stephenson said. The traditional Safe and Sober After-Prom party at the Roxy will continue, she said. For $10, students at the after-party are treated to food, movies, music and door prizes throughout the night.

Stephenson said the transportation rule was adopted for “safety, equity and camaraderie,” similar to Grad Nite, where charter buses are provided.

“We want students to have a fun, memorable and safe series of events to cap their high school experience. . . . We hope that nothing gets in the way of making graduation the beautiful, celebratory event our students have earned. They work extremely hard to get there.”

But Danny and others argue that the bus will not be a safer ride for students. He and his friends say bus accidents have the potential of taking the lives of many passengers at once compared to driving solo or with a couple of friends. A simpler solution, he said, would have been for students to get permission slips from parents to arrange their own transportation.

“They’re taking it too far,” Danny said.

He and other students, like Mattea Pulido, are considering other options for the night, although Danny and Mattea said they would probably just go ahead and take the bus.

Mattea, 17, spoke to the Camarillo Acorn while vacationing in France during spring break.

“We never needed a bus because we always had prom in town,” she said, adding that she knows kids who get car sick on buses and others who were planning to arrive late to the dance because their dates are from out of town.

According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a 54 percent drop in the number of teens who drink and drive since 1991.

But teen drivers are still more likely than more experienced motorists to be in a fatal crash, according to the CDC. Multiple studies show that April through June have the most DUI-related accidents involving teens, largely due to prom night and graduation.

Penelope DeLeon, superintendent of Oxnard Union High School District, said she has a threefold perspective on the bus issue.

“As a district leader, student safety is always our top priority,” she said. “As a mother of three former teenagers who attended high schools where prom buses were provided, I can tell you from experience the absolute relief I felt knowing my children would be safely returned home to me. As a lifelong high school educator, I fully support ACHS’ decision to provide bus transportation to and from prom.”

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