Alaina Leary
April 09, 2019 12:02 pm

In North Carolina, a student’s school doesn’t allow same-sex couples to buy each other’s prom tickets. In Texas, a student wasn’t allowed to attend prom with her boyfriend because he’s a different race than she is. In Tennessee, a school wouldn’t allow a trans teenage girl to be named prom queen.

These are just some of the stories that inspired Take Back the Prom, an initiative from DoSomething,org, a nonprofit organization that encourages young people to get involved in social change.

One student from Virginia shared, “I went with my friend to my prom thing my school had—I am a girl, she is a girl. We aren’t even a same-sex couple. After that I got a lecture from my school about how being heterosexual is proper and how we should be. Then they banned going to the dance with anyone that isn’t the opposite sex.”

Another student in Oklahoma said, “I am a white female and was unable to take my Black boyfriend to prom. They said it was because he was from another school, but other girls were allowed to bring their dates from other schools. He was only denied after he had to send in a photo of his ID. Everything was approved up until that point.”

Take Back the Prom advocates for young people who face prom discrimination. The initiative was inspired by over 1,000 students’ stories in all 50 states about the struggles they’ve faced at their high schools, from being banned at prom due to ethnicity to being required to provide evidence that they’re gay just to bring a date who is the same gender. The campaign runs until June 30th, covering the major prom season.

So what is Take Back the Prom?

First, teens can share their stories so they feel less alone.

They can anonymously contribute their stories to Take Back the Prom’s crowdsourced map, which shows where prom injustices are happening across the country, and read other students’ stories. The map gives teenagers a voice without making them potential targets for more hostility, since it doesn’t pinpoint what school or town the stories come from.

Low-income students can get the formalwear they need.

Prom is also expensive to attend, and many low-income students miss out as a result. The average student spends over $1,100 on prom, and attire is one of the major expenses. So Take Back the Prom is collecting donations of gently used formalwear for teens who might otherwise have to miss prom because the costs are too high.

Students can fight to make their proms more inclusive.

The tradition of naming a prom king and queen is deeply gendered and can lead to discrimination and potentially misgendering students. The Take Back the Prom website offers resources teens can use to advocate for inclusive proms at their high schools, like how to talk to your school administrators about changing gendered traditions to create a more gender-inclusive prom.

There’s even an anxiety hotline (where was this when we were in school?).

Many students feel a lot of stress about prom in general—what to wear, who to go with, whether they feel pressured to have sex, if they should drink with friends. That’s why Take Back the Prom set up an anxiety text hotline (text PROM to 38383) that all students can use if they’re feeling anxious about prom, whether they’ve faced discrimination or not.

DoSomething is also partnering with LGBTQ+ rights activist Jazz Jennings, singer-songwriter Alyson Stoner, actors Lachlan Watson and Ian Alexander, and actor-singer AnnaSophia Robb to increase visibility for Take Back the Prom and encourage teenagers around the country to advocate for inclusive proms at their high schools.

Prom discrimination is never okay, and fighting for more inclusive, accessible proms is a powerful way to take back the prom for everyone.

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