Adams Letter is below the following article indicating that both sides are working to create a revised policy. That story is posted prior to Adam's statement.
Policy change coming for prom escorts
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
A policy that prevented a member of the military from escorting his younger sister to prom at Liberal High School April 20 may be changing soon.
A youtube video showing Courtney Widener's brother Casey standing at the end of the red carpet while his sister made her way to the entrance without him, and a letter to the editor from Courtney sharing her disappointment sat off a national firestorm that involved Fox News, CNN, Wichita television stations and a barrage of comments on social media web sites.
Both sides came together Monday afternoon to try to bring an end to the spectacle, and it included an apology to Airman Casey Widener from LHS principal Keith Adams.
"I am sorry that Casey Widener was offended or dishonored in any way," Adams said. "That was not our intent."
Both sides received criticism from around the nation. "There's one from New York," Adams said as he checked his email on his iPhone while meeting with Widener, her parents, Superintendent Lance Stout and Deputy Superintendent Paul Larkin. The meeting was requested by Courtney and was facilitated by board member Tammy Sutherland Abbott.
Neither side was attempting to discredit the other, and Courtney wanted to meet with her principal to bring an end to the criticism of him, the district and of her disappointment.
Adams agreed, and the discussion became a two-hour meeting that involved other parties including a television crew and other members of the media.
"We are willing to work and find a remedy to this," Stout said. "It is impossible to go back, but what we can do is make it better for the future."
Courtney's father Roby agreed.
"We want to move forward, and hopefully if there is another situation that comes up like this, we can remedy it," he said. "The policy can remedy it."
The group discussed several ways that the principal can be given greater latitude in allowing those that don't meet the current guidelines, which does not allow anyone 21-years-old or older to participate in prom activities.
"We want the public to know we are not bickering," Roby said. "We want to defuse it and make it a positive for the community."
When Courtney's original request was denied, Roby did not know why until he met with Adams.
"I didn't understand how strict of a box you were in" he said to Adams. "I can see this (request) and it makes total sense, even if it wasn't my son."
But by policy Adams had to refuse the request since Courtney's brother Casey was 22.
"The policy was not intended to disrespect anybody," Adams said. "And certainly not from my point of view. My job is to follow a standard procedure, and he didn't meet eligibility. It sounds crude, but I have 1,200 kids and a lot of times they want to go around the rules."
Having a more flexible policy would allow Adams the opportunity to allow situations like Courtney's to happen.
"I would appreciate having the flexibility in the future to make that decision," Adams said.
Roby defended the existing policy when it came to keeping students protected from those too old to attend the prom.
"I don't want some 35-year-old in with my 17-year-old daughter," he said. "I don't mean to denigrate the policy. I appreciate it. But I do think this is an old policy and it needs to be reviewed."
School district representatives agreed.
Stout also encouraged Courtney to continue to help frame the new policy.
"I would like to know that next year when prom rolls around this wouldn't be an issue," Courtney said. "And not just brothers and sisters but mothers and fathers. I would like to know there is a policy but that this would not be a problem for someone else."
"I respect that," Stout said. "You have a voice in this."
Both sides also agreed to try to end the social media attacks and try to be respectful of each side.
"She still has to go to school next year," Courtney's mother Tiffany Brady said.
The group agreed to continue the discussion so that by next week's regularly scheduled school board meeting, a revision to the policy can be presented that would insure similar situations in the future would not happen again.
It is not easy to be in a position of enforcing policy
By Liberal High School Principal Keith Adams
In the April 28 edition of the Leader & Times, there was an editorial on the opinion page by a Liberal High School student. The headline to the article read, “LHS prom rules dishonor alumni who served in Afghanistan.”
First of all, that headline appears as an unfair attempt to discredit the school and the administrators whose job it is to enforce school policy.
Rules are not meant to “dishonor” anyone. They are in place to give order to a process. The fact that this young man, a Liberal High School graduate, is serving his country is an honor and something the district is very proud of.
The student author of this letter has every right to be proud of her brother. While the intent of the letter is obvious, and the appeal to emotion for her cause is woven throughout the letter, there are some things in it that simply are not true and must be specifically pointed out.
She states that the young man was forced to stand there alone. This was something he chose to do – no one forced him, and no one prevented him. While standing there, Airman Widener was recognized for his service by the PA announcer and given a round of applause by the audience.
She states that “two very honorable students were punished in order to avoid the possibility of someone catching an American soldier on film.” While the part about two honorable students is true, the rest of this statement is not. There was absolutely no discussion about blocking Airman Widener and students from camera, and no attempt to do so.
To sum up her letter, the student states she was punished for following the rules. This is also not true. There was no punishment issued to this student for following rules.
Secondly, it is unfortunate that her letter, along with other slanderous propaganda posted on social media has brought false accusations against our district and taken away the true purpose of Prom. Such propaganda, as promoted by those who have posted and commented on such things, has put this event in a negative light for the dozens of students who attended the prom, and for our school, and our community.
Those who post such material are to blame for the problems it has caused. Prom is a formal event to honor the juniors and seniors of the school and should be focused solely on them. This single incident should not take away from the many positives that others experienced that night.
There was another serviceman in attendance who met the criteria set by policy, and walked in honorably in full dress uniform.
There were siblings who attended together that met the criteria. Several friends and dates from other schools attended and met the guidelines for attendance.
For whatever reason, people have chosen with this single case to cast stones of negativity against the school and administration for enforcing school board-approved policies that have been in place for well over a decade.
It is not easy to be in a position of enforcing rules that are sometimes unpopular. The administrators of the district are doing their best to be as fair and consistent as possible. The perception from some people on the outside of rule enforcement tends to indicate they feel they know best about situations they have never personally had to deal with.
Some may ask, What is the harm in bending the rules? For those whose job it is to enforce the board approved guidelines, the answer is fairness and consistency. There were others turned away that night for the same reason of not meeting the age requirement. Others were turned away because they had been out of school too long.
The rules simply have to be enforced consistently for everyone – and to the best of human ability they are enforced. If there are people in the community that disagree with the current prom attendance rules, please send your positive suggestions on how they can be changed to accomplish what is believed to be lacking with the current policies.
Please do not listen to propaganda. Don’t assume and listen to unfounded rhetoric. And please do not vilify our school and administration for doing their jobs. Hurling negative comments around the community and social media does nothing but tear us apart.
Finally, you can rest assured that Casey Widener is an American Airman to be honored, and our school and community are proud of his service to our country. He was in no manner intentionally dishonored and kept from attending prom due to his military service. It was simply the matter of his age being too old to meet current policy.
Principal, Liberal High School
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