Prom is a major part of the student experience. Every year, graduating seniors, and oftentimes juniors, partake in the popular end-of-year dance to celebrate. For seniors, it is seen as a symbol marking the end of their childhood before setting off into the real world. High school students across the nation were unfortunate to not get the opportunity to attend this right-of-passage night during the onset of the pandemic, and this school year has been hailed as a return to normalcy, especially for events like prom. But in major cities like New York City, many students fear they will be excluded from the special night, as reports claim the city will not allow unvaccinated students to attend their school’s prom.
According to reports from The New York Post, there have been indicators from city officials for the last few months that unvaccinated students would be barred from attending end-of-year school prom events. All despite the fact that students are not required to be vaccinated to attend school in New York City. City Hall had allegedly denied claims that they had come to an official decision on the matter, but some politicians clapped back, claiming they had been told otherwise.
On Sunday, May 8th, a group of city council members, including five Republicans and two Democrats, issued a letter to the city’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan. Within the letter, the angry politicians urged the commissioner not to prohibit unvaccinated students from attending their school’s prom. They argued that the practice would contradict the city’s other mandates in regards to the COVID vaccine.
While staff and teachers are required to get the COVID jab to work inside New York City public schools, the city does not require students to have the vaccine in order to attend. Because of this, the letter to the commissioner questioned the department’s “science” behind not letting unvaccinated students attend prom. They wanted to know why students could mingle with each other, unvaccinated and unmasked, inside classrooms, but possibly not attend a prom event together. Furthermore, the letter looked at the city’s rules on public places like restaurants, bars, and shopping centers, which also do not require individuals to be vaccinated against COVID.
Furthermore, the urgency of the letter was said to have come because the councilmembers had been informed by school principals that a decision had already been made in regards to prom. Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli added that he was personally informed by a top city Department of Education official that the health department had already made its final decision. Learning of the council members’ concerns, NYC Mayor Eric Adams addressed the members.
A spokesperson for the mayor responded later that day, backing up the city’s stance that they had yet to make an official decision in regards to vaccination requirements for prom. Furthermore, the representative made note that the mayor personally agreed with the angry official’s viewpoints. “We agree that it makes little sense to have different rules at prom versus in the classroom and will have more to say in the coming days,” they said.
To the city officials’ delight, the city’s health department made the official decision not to ban unvaccinated students from prom events the very next day. The Mayor officially announced this on Monday. However, there are still some issues with the department’s late coming decision.
Many schools within The Big Apple have already surpassed the date to buy prom tickets. Therefore, if unvaccinated students waited to purchase their tickets until they knew for sure they could attend the big event, they might already have no choice. Likewise, the announcement came with a caveat on venue requirements. They noted that the schools were required to follow regulations for proms held at private locations. Consequently, if the venue mandates a vaccine requirement, these students will still be barred from attending after all.