Students angered by threat to prom night

Grade 12 students in Chilliwack speak out about the possibility teacher job action might cancel their prom night.

Grade 12 students in Chilliwack may be denied a longstanding rite of passage that their older counterparts were granted.

Last week’s vote by the teachers’ union to withdraw from volunteer extracurricular activities has left Chilliwack’s graduation banquets in jeopardy.

While district superintendent Michael Audet informed The Progress that commencement and scholarship ceremonies will still go ahead without teacher involvement, he said the graduation dinner and dance is still up in the air.

“I don’t know about [the banquet], there’s been no decisions made on that yet,” said Audet.

The thought of not having prom infuriated several graduating students at Chilliwack secondary.

“I think prom is just as important as regular commencement,” said Grade 12 student Shannon Hames.

“This is something we look forward to our entire school career. It’s our one last shot at seeing everybody and hanging out.”

Never mind that many of the graduating students have already purchased gowns, shoes, accessories. They’ve rented tuxes, put deposits down on limos and other fancy vehicles. They’ve made hair appointments and had dresses altered.

And some of the boys have gone to imaginative lengths to ask their dates to prom. “I was asked just last week on a donut,” said student Shay Ritchot.

“I’d be really upset if I didn’t get to go.”

Initially Ritchot had no intention of going to the grad banquet, it wasn’t her thing, but because her mom always regretted not going to hers, Ritchot made an effort, and even started getting excited for it.

This is as much for her as it is for her mom, Ritchot said.

Student Jessi Knutson has already invested $250 into a dress, $60 into shoes, and countless hours into researching her dress, touring multiple shops, trying on an assortment of gowns, traveling as far as Kelowna for the dress of her dreams.

“So many of us have put in so much money and effort into getting ready for this one night, and now it’s just going to be thrown away,” said Knutson. “[Teachers] say their striking to help students, but taking this away from us, that’s not helping us.”

For Grade 12 student Carl Hands, missing out on the grad banquet would equate to an end-of-school letdown.

“It would feel like something was missing,” he said.

In an earlier interview with The Progress, Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president Katharin Midzain said the vote to withdraw from extracurricular activities was not an easy one to make, especially when it came to teacher involvement in graduation events. But teachers have to think about the whole student body, not just Grade 12 students, she said.

“I think it comes down to re-evaluating what’s important and certainly at this point in time what’s absolutely critical is the maintenance of a public education system that serves everybody’s needs, not just the Grade 12s,” said Midzain.

But that’s little comfort for the students graduating in two months time.

“I understand job action, but I don’t understand why they have to cancel a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Hames.