Liberal school apologizes to Airman in prom dispute

Liberal High School Prom Controversy

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LIBERAL, Kansas – The Liberal Unified School District is proposing changes to a policy on who can participate in the high school’s prom activities.

The efforts stem from the controversy that arose after a student was not allowed to have her brother, on leave from the Air Force, escort her down the promenade into the dance.

Courtney Widener, a junior at Liberal High School, made a request to school administrators to permit her 22-year-old brother Casey, an active member of the Air Force who had just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, to walk her down the red carpet.

But the school, citing policy that no one over the age of 21 could participate in prom activities, declined the request, so instead, Casey stood at attention while Courtney and a friend walked into the prom.

“[Casey] thought it was a really great way to honor me and send me off to a really great night,” Courtney Widener said. “He was disappointed, but he probably accepted the decision better than anyone else in my family. He was really respectful about it.”

Courtney then wrote a letter to the editor of the Liberal Leader & Times that was published last Friday, which angered many people in Liberal and across the country, who felt that it was an affront to an active military member.

School district officials vehemently denied that claim.

“There was no intent to dishonor or discredit Courtney’s brother or the military or anything like that,” said Paul Larkin, USD 480 deputy superintendent. “That was the furthest from any of our intentions.”

To help bring some peace back to the community, Courtney Widener met with school district officials Tuesday to come up with a way to change the policy that will ensure something like this does not happen again.

“We’ve been in the process of looking at and crafting that policy and coming up with a remedy that would fix that circumstance,” Larkin said.

The proposed changes would allow immediate family or others who do not meet the policy’s age requirement to walk students down the promenade to the prom with the approval of the school principal and superintendent.

“We decided that it was necessary to stop the craziness that this spun into,” Courtney Widener added. “It spun into something way more than either of us could have ever imagined.”

The proposed changes go to a vote before the Liberal school board on Monday.

 

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