Blackwell High School to remove financial prom stipulation amid community backlash

by Charles Gerian

A post on the Blackwell High School Facebook page exploded in controversy this week regarding the requirements for students to attend the April 2024 prom, specifically a stipulation that the student who wished to attend prom should have no financial holds.

The post went semi-viral and amassed nearly 100 shares and comments, with some stating that they were ashamed of being a Maroon and accusing the school of targeting students based on their family's income.

Amid the negative feedback, Blackwell High School Principal Gerry Magin told the Journal-Tribune on Friday afternoon that the school would walk back the financial requirement, but noted that all requirements to attend prom are simply the same as being able to graduate.

The requirements for prom were approved by the Blackwell Board of Education in a regular meeting that took place just before the new year.

The BHS Facebook Page originally listed the following: Students must be eligible in all classes, have no major disciplinary actions taken against them, have no financial holds, must have 90% attendance, must have completed ICAP, and that outside prom dates must be enrolled in high school and must also meet the listed requirements.

The financial requirement that has been stricken from the list relates to fees incurred from the school's Chromebook laptop learning devices.

"I am willing to drop this because it doesn't tie into graduation requirements," said Magin.

"I want to be clear, however, that this has nothing to do with students who owe money for lunch. The school has $300 Chromebooks- we have people who break and lose these and refuse to pay. The taxpayers are paying for these, and we are very limited on what we can do in these situations to get the money back on those losses."

Magin stated that at the beginning of the school year students and parents both sign a contract for the Chromebooks stating that they have to pay if the devices are lost or broken.

"Now," said Magin, "if someone comes in and says that they are struggling financially, we will work with them by any means possible to set up a payment plan for that, we don't care if they pay $5 or $10 a month."

Breaking down the rest of the requirements, Principal Magin stated:

"The State of Oklahoma says that the schools are responsible for the student's attendance and graduation rates. Blackwell Public Schools is graded on both of those. As long as we're graded on those, our mission is to get these kids to graduate, so I don't understand the controversy around those aspects."

The State of Oklahoma's requirements were listed verbatim in the Blackwell Public Schools student manual regarding attendance and passing grade eligibility.

According to Magin, a student is allowed up to 7 unexcused absences a semester to meet the 90% attendance requirement.

Excused absences are as follows, taken from the policy manual, following the State of Oklahoma requirements:

"Excused absences will be granted for the following reasons: Personal business, Illnesses both child and family

, medical appointments (therapy appointments included), legal matters, including service on a grand, multicounty grand, or petit jury, extenuating circumstances deemed necessary by the Principal, and observance of holidays required by student's religious affiliation."

Magin continued:

"We will run prom eligibility a month in advance."

The 'No major discipline' requirement constitutes out of school suspension, according to Magin.

The grounds for suspension can be found within the Blackwell Schools policy manual available on their website, here:

Magin also explained the ICAP requirement, stating that the Individual Career Academic Plan is a post-secondary plan which is a form students have to fill out to be submitted to the school's guidance counselor.

"ICAP is a relatively new graduation requirement by the State of Oklahoma," said Magin, "we were scrambling last year up until the day of graduation to fill these out."

"The requirements for attending prom, now, are the same as graduating," he concluded.

The final listed requirement maintains that students who attend prom need to be enrolled in high school. Guests from out of town must also be enrolled in a high school and must be in good standing with their respective schools.