High School Holds Segregated Proms
Decades after the Supreme Court ended school segregation, high
school students in rural Lyons, Ga., are still separated from
their peers of other races — at the prom.
At Toombs County High School, there are three separate dances:
one for blacks, one for whites and this year for the first time,
one for Hispanics.
The idea of separate proms was first introduced by some white
parents in the 1970s in response to integration and has remained
a tradition ever since.
But high school Principal Ralph Hardy said it now has nothing
to do with race — it has to do with diverse cultural traditions
and different tastes in food and music. "Latinos like one
kind of music. Blacks like to listen to their music. Whites have
their music," said Hardy.
School officials said students are invited to attend any of the
proms — even all three if they wish.
But high school junior Anna Rosa Perez said racial crossover is
still discouraged at the dances and thinks the school needs to
get involved and sponsor one prom for everyone.
Eleventh-grader Yuri Flores says the prom is as much a part of
high school life as math and science. When she felt uncomfortable
about attending either of the traditionally segregated parties
for Toombs High students, she planned one of her own for Hispanic
classmates. "We wanted a Hispanic prom cause it's a different
taste in music and all that stuff," she told us. "That's
why we wanted it more than anything else."
For years, black students and white students raised money to rent
the local armory on separate nights for separate events. Since
they're private, you don't see any mention of them on a school
calendar. Administrators say other integrated events get complicated.
Administrators say a dozen years ago, they gave students a vote
to integrate the prom or keep them separate and private. They
voted to keep them as they are now.
But some students are interested in change. "Black prom committee,
white prom committee, Hispanic prom committee could just come
together and, like, share a big petition to the board," said
senior Robert Robinson.
"You hear it in conversation, like man we should just put
everybody together at one prom," added classmate Micah Williams.
Yuri says she just wants to get past the politics and have a good
time. After all, that’s what High School is all about.