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Teens shut out on prom night at aquarium

By KRISTINA TORRES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 04/25/06

An expected highlight of the year turned into a low point in their high school careers for a dozen or so promgoers.

Primped to perfection, almost all of them held prepaid tickets for their prom Saturday night at this spring’s hottest venue: the Georgia Aquarium. But instead of enjoying a memorable evening dancing the night away, the students were turned away at the door.

schools spokesman Dale Davis said Monday as he and aquarium spokesman Dave Santucci described the circumstances that left some students and guests of Lithonia High School still steaming after they were barred from their big night.

“I have no memories of my senior prom because they wouldn’t let me in,” said Lithonia senior Jamie Baker. He and his date, Lithonia junior Sadé Simmons, were among those who couldn’t get in. “I didn’t go to my junior prom,” Baker said. Now, he said, he’ll have nothing to tell his own children when they go to their own proms 20 years from now.

The school contracted for 740 guests to attend the prom, held from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, and aquarium officials say they staffed a security detail based on that number of people.

More people showed up, however. About 48 guests without tickets — friends and dates of students — were let in anyway, according to Davis.

Between about 9:30 and 10 p.m., the security staff balked. They told school administrators that no more people would be allowed to enter, tickets or no. About a dozen late-arriving guests did not get in. To make matters worse, they were told to clear the exit areas and wait across the street for their rides.

“We’re committed to having a safe and fun environment for proms here, so we have to have a certain ratio of security personnel to guests,” Santucci said. “We understand a prom’s special. It’s an unfortunate situation.”

The aquarium is scheduled to host 10 proms this season for schools from all over metro Atlanta.

Davis said Lithonia High students who didn’t get in the doors will be reimbursed any school fees and ticket costs associated with the prom. He also said those students who are juniors can use that money and “prepay” for next year’s prom.

On the aquarium’s behalf, Santucci offered a special makeup gift: a private dinner at the aquarium for those denied entry.

Students Baker and Simmons, who spent more than $500 on clothes, grooming and gas to get ready Saturday, weren’t sure what to make of the offer, however.

“I’m not going to get my prom back, am I?” Baker said.


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