Students at a California school are using an NFL-style drafting system to rank and acquire prom dates.
How does it work? Well, it’s the classic story of boy likes girl, boy participates in NFL-style draft, boy gets random number, but can pay to get a better number that gives him a better shot at asking the girl of his choice to prom. This is how it all goes down at Corona del Mar High School, located in Newport Beach, California. A twitter account, which has since been removed, announced that the draft was on and encouraged female students to dress accordingly: “many drafters on the prowl tomorrow for #freeagents so dress nice ladies.” The account also announced rules like ”sophomores can be drafted” and ranked girls, posting pictures of football jerseys bearing their last names.
According to a male student participating in the draft (who spoke anonymously to avoid getting into trouble), boys can pay for a better number. One student spent $140 on a good pick: “It’s awkward because he spent a large amount of money to go with someone he doesn’t talk to… And she finds it awkward that he chose her.” Does anyone find it awkward that they are, you know, paying for prom dates? Not really, according to the same student, who claims that “a lot of the girls respect the draft and stick with those dates.” Indeed, sophomore Jessie Harris, who was one of the girls lucky enough to be drafted insists there is nothing wrong with this practice: “I am part of the draft and am friends with many girls in the draft and yes, in some instances girls can be picked by appearance… It is all just a fun way to decide who you will be going to prom with. It is not meant to harm those who are picked and I do not believe that it does. It is not, was never, and will never ever be used to objectify the girls at our school.”
Not everyone has such a peachy keen view of the draft. One father whose daughter goes to another school in the area said, “Now your daughter is a commodity, she’s no longer a person anymore… She’s being ranked and sold like an NFL player. It’s outrageous to think of.” The co-president of the Feminists United student group at a neighboring school wrote, “Prom should be about having a fun time with your peers and celebrating the end of a successful academic year…. These boys must be very confused about the time we live in if they think that being asked to prom is such a high honor.”
Over the weekend, school principal Kathy Scott e-mailed school parents with concern and even threatened to cancel the prom: “It is not OK for any student to be objectified or judged in any way…. I urge you to talk with your student(s) and discuss the seriousness of this type of activity…. Prom is an important event in the lives of our students and I would hate to have to cancel it or any other important student related activity due to the negative actions of a few.”
Scott should be commended for taking this seriously — especially since in the past the school has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for condoning problematic sexist and homophobic student behavior, as well as its own alleged homophobia. The school had decided to “ignore obvious signs of a school culture gone awry,” the suit claimed. The administration canceled the school production of Rent, allegedly over the gay characters, coaches were accused of using homophobic slurs, and the school failed miserably in its response (or lack thereof) to a video in which three football players threatened to rape and kill a female classmate.
Hopefully, the draft will be canceled and the prom will go on. Or, you know, proms and all adolescent hierarchical popularity contests will just be abolished altogether. A girl can dream!
Katie Halper is a writer, filmmaker and comedian.