After much controversy, Wilcox County High School decided yesterday to officially sponsor a prom in 2014. It'll mark the first time the school has hosted the dance, effectively ending the practice separating black and whites proms, which were privately organized by some parents and students.
"After conducting a survey of students and staff, WCHS Principal Chad Davis has stated that his Leadership Team and faculty have decided to host the school's first school-sponsored prom in the spring of 2014," a statement said on Wilcox County Schools' website.
Over the past year, student Mareshia Rucker and several of her peers from the rural 9,000-person county, located more than two hours south of Atlanta, attempted to end the decades-old practice of segregated proms. Their efforts culminated last month with the 2013 integrated prom - an event that made international headlines.
"I'm glad that they're doing what they're supposed to do," Rucker tells CL. "I just feel like it shouldn't have taken all of this for them to do it."
The statement from Wilcox County Schools says that faculty, students, and parents will join forces in late July to form a committee and plan planning and fundraising efforts for the 2014 prom.
In this morning's Get Schooled blog, Maureen Downey passed along a note from Wilcox County High School Superintendent Steve Smith. Here's an excerpt:
Now that this issue is settled, I wish I could get the public as excited about public education as they have been over this issue. I wish the media requests from CNN, Fox News, the Today Show, Headline News, numerous New York talk shows, Al Jazeera English and countless others would come rushing in to address just how underfunded rural public education is in Georgia.
I wish someone would do a story on how local churches provide backpacks filled with food to send home on Fridays for our students who rely completely on the school for nutritious meals. Incidentally, the students return those backpacks on Tuesdays (we attend school Tuesday through Friday from 8am to 4pm because of budget cuts) so the process can be repeated weekly. I wish someone would do a story on the middle school teacher who noticed one of his students struggling to walk in shoes that were too small, and how he left school during his planning period to go purchase a pair of shoes with his own money.
I wish someone would do a story on how often administrators call law enforcement directly because DFCS is so under-staffed, it takes two or three days for them to respond, and we cannot allow our students to be victims of abuse another minute. I wish someone would do a story on just how involved all teachers in Wilcox County are in the lives of their students.
I wish someone would do a story on how our male coaches have become surrogate fathers for so many of our students, with the relationships lasting years after the students leave high school. I wish someone would do a story on how many of our students are being raised by grandparents, aunts and other family members, and the challenges those students and their guardians face on a daily basis.
I wish someone would do a story on how talented and close-knit our students really are. I wish someone would do a story on our Pre-K student who is battling lung cancer, and how the school system and community are rallying to raise money for this family.
I wish someone would do a story on how limited employment opportunities in Wilcox County lead to an exodus of most of our future leaders. I wish someone would do a story on how difficult it has become to convince our best and brightest to enter the field of education.
Smith makes a valid argument, especially in an area filled with its fair shares of other problems. But that's not a great excuse for Wilcox County Schools, whose leadership never stepped up to the plate in decades past. Instead, they allowed private segregated proms to continue by absolving themselves of responsibility.
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