After nearly two years without any community-building events, Berkeley High School (BHS) will finally host a long-awaited prom, to be held at the San Francisco Design Center Galleria on March 19. However, some BHS students will not be permitted to attend the starry night themed event if they have received a prom exclusion letter due to uncleared absences. Many students face attendance issues because of a number of personal factors, which this exclusion rule fails to adequately address. The reality is that no one should be excluded from prom, regardless of attendance.
This year, many are hoping that prom, a high school milestone, will revive student morale. Unfortunately, according to the January 7 student bulletin email, students with over 30 unexcused absence periods, or about five days of unexcused absences, were added to the exclusion list. This year, over 350 juniors and seniors — about 25 percent of all eligible students — are on the list.
Many students have personal reasons for missing class, and some absences cannot easily be excused by a parent or guardian. Perhaps some students don’t want the administration to know about household or mental health issues. Or maybe a student is facing issues concerning harassment and isn’t comfortable reporting the offense.
During the pandemic, some students have had to care for family members and many students dealt with health issues. Hana Medhkour, a BHS senior, landed on the prom exclusion list due to absences related to various illnesses. While cutting class isn’t excusable, there are cases in which excusing an absence isn’t easy.
While it’s possible to get off the prom exclusion list, the process can be challenging. According to Aman Watson, the dean of attendance, 2019’s prom exclusion list had 383 students listed, and only 35 of those students were able to clear their absences by the time prom rolled around. To clear these absences, students must attend tutoring in the College and Career Center or complete a two-week attendance log. With packed schedules and a multitude of extracurriculars, many students don’t have time for hours of tutoring.
Prom is an important high school experience. With disproportionate impacts on marginalized students, prom attendance barriers need to be lifted so that all BHS prom attendees can enjoy the best starry night of their lives.