Catherine Maine, now 69, never attended a high school prom when she was a teenager. "I moved and was in between schools, and I just didn't get the chance," she told TODAY Parents.
So Maine was especially touched when her youngest grandchild, Bryce Maine, 18, asked her if she would be his date to his senior prom at Eufaula High School in Eufaula, Alabama, this spring.
"It shocked me, and then I was tickled," she said. "I didn’t really believe that a teenager would ask his grandmother to the prom."
Though he has a girlfriend his own age, Bryce decided to ask Maine, also known as "Nanny," to the dance because he knew she hadn't been able to attend a prom of her own, he told TODAY Parents. "I just thought she should get a chance to go," he said.
Bryce and his grandmother have always been close, his father, Thomas Maine, explained. "I have been a single father to Bryce and his older sister since he was six months old," he said. "My mother was always there for him, always taking care of him. She's been a big part of his life."
Bryce said he approached his high school principal before he asked his grandmother to the prom, and he said the principal told Bryce that he would consider allowing his grandmother to attend the prom with him.
However, Mitzi K. Clayton of Eufaula City Schools told TODAY Parents the school determined that Maine's age would violate the rules set out on page 44 of the Eufaula High School Student Handbook:
“The Junior-Senior Prom is a cherished event held in the spring of each year. Attendees must be under the age of twenty and/or should be enrolled at EHS. Non-EHS students who are planning to attend as dates must present a valid photo ID verifying their age prior to admittance. Students planning to bring a non-EHS student as a date must also inform the prom sponsor no later than two weeks prior to the event."
Bryce's cousin, Sarah Catherine, posted about the controversy on her Facebook page, and a hashtag was born: #LetNannyGoToProm. Her post has been shared more than 4,700 times on Facebook, prompting a meeting between Bryce's father, Eufaula High School's principal, and the superintendent of Eufaula City Schools this week. However, the decision stands: Nanny won't be going to the Eufaula High School prom.
Eufaula City Schools released a statement from principal Steve Hawkins, who said, “Safety of students and staff is the first and most important of the many tasks of a school administrator. For the 10 years I have been high school principal, we have denied requests each year from students asking to bring older dates to prom. We do not chance leaving any stone unturned when it comes to safety. Most high schools have an age limit for prom attendees.”
Bryce and Nanny have accepted the decision. "Rules are rules," Bryce said. "I just have a hard time understanding why they couldn't make an exception for my grandmother." He said he and Nanny will "do their own thing together" that night instead. "I'm very proud of him," Nanny said.
Bryce's father supports his son as well as his high school. "In no way are we fighting the school on anything," he said. "I support the rules and regulations of Eufaula High School." He pointed out Bryce only has six weeks left until he graduates and heads for South Georgia Technical College in the fall.
For their part, Eufaula City Schools are hoping to include seniors like Nanny in non-prom events in the future. "We are partnering with our senior center — which is part of the community center where we hold prom — to start an annual Senior Banquet and Dance in May," said Clayton. "Our students will help and be a part of a great event. There are probably many others besides the lady we are discussing that did not have the opportunity to attend a prom; we want them to have a night they have dreamed of having."