State Rep. Brad Drake is "pissed off" the school's principal is barring the girl from the dance.
DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — A 17-year-old girl is heartbroken after school officials told her she couldn't go to the prom because she's home schooled.
Hannah Cooper went to the homecoming dance at Walton High School, helped build the class float, tried out for the softball team and bought a class shirt. Her mom pulled her out of Walton High during her sophomore year because of a health problem.
Hannah didn't know there was a problem until she went to the school Monday to buy tickets for her and her date. She'd already bought a $600 dress and her date had rented a tux.
"The law states that she can go to any extracurricular activity," said her mom, Natasha Cooper. "They're trying to say now that it's an 'event,' and that if Hannah goes it could open the door for any child that is home schooled to go. And they could bring guns or drugs to the prom.
"She has cried all week," she added. "She's a junior and she's devastated."
Walton County Superintendent of Schools Russell Hughes confirmed that School Board policy prohibited home-schooled students from attending prom unless they were the date of a registered student.
"Prom is for students who attend the schools and their dates," he said. "If I open the door and violate the (state) statute, I open the door to 400-plus students to say they want to go to prom."
He said he spoke to Natasha Cooper on Thursday.
"Bottom line is, I shared with them that I hope this doesn't have a negative impact on their child," Hughes said. "I wish every student was in a public school, but home schooling is their right.
"My priority is just to keep my students safe," he added.
Natasha also reached out to state Rep. Brad Drake, whom she has known since high school. He called the Daily News late Thursday afternoon.
"I am pissed off the principal would arbitrarily deny a child an opportunity to participate in prom, something state statute specifically allows for," he said. "If it's not reading or writing, it's extracurricular."
The prom is Saturday night at The Barn in Laurel Hill.
Staff writers Heather Osbourne and Tom McLaughlin contributed to this report.