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Published: Tuesday, 5/12/2009

Youth's suspension for attending prom draws national buzz

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tyler Frost went to the Findlay High School prom with girlfriend Rebecca Smooty. There he was photographed holding hands with his date, which his own school, Heritage Christian, forbids, along with rock music and dancing. While he faces the consequences, Tyler said he 'had fun and nothing dumb or bad happened or anything.' The case is being likened to the movie 'Footloose.' Tyler Frost went to the Findlay High School prom with girlfriend Rebecca Smooty. There he was photographed holding hands with his date, which his own school, Heritage Christian, forbids, along with rock music and dancing. While he faces the consequences, Tyler said he 'had fun and nothing dumb or bad happened or anything.' The case is being likened to the movie 'Footloose.'
KENT TARBOX / AP Enlarge

FINDLAY - Tyler Frost is banned from graduation for going to prom with his girlfriend.

The 17-year-old senior at Heritage Christian School was advised against going to the Findlay High School prom, but he went anyway and said he had fun at the event Saturday night.

"I'm glad that I had the opportunity to go. I'm glad that I know what prom is like, and we had a good time," he said. "It was fun and nothing dumb or bad happened or anything."

But his attendance was against policy at the 84-student Baptist school he's attended for 13 years. It forbids dancing, rock music, and hand-holding - and Tyler was photographed walking into the prom holding hands with his date.

Effective yesterday, Tyler is suspended for the last two weeks of school and can't take part in graduation activities. He can't make up work missed during his suspension, but he can take his final exams and get his diploma.

Tyler's story has gained national attention and comparisons to the 1984 film Footloose, staring Kevin Bacon, a movie Tyler hasn't seen. "I need to see it so I know what everybody is talking about," he said.

Tyler and his stepfather, Stephan Johnson, who were to appear on the CBS Early Show this morning, said they're surprised by the attention.

So is Findlay High Principal Craig Kupferberg, who said he was pleased that the buzz around the situation didn't cause too much of a distraction at the prom.

"It's a high school dance," he said. "I understand people put a lot of thought and attention to prom, but when it comes down to it, it's a high school dance."

The issue started when Tyler took a form to Heritage Christian Principal Tim England to sign, proving he's a student there. Findlay High has students from other schools fill out the form, which is not a permission slip, so they know where the students are coming from who attend their prom.

Mr. England signed it but told Tyler it's against the rules that he signed at the start of the school year and said Tyler could face consequences.

Mr. England declined to comment yesterday. He earlier said Tyler and his parents knew the rules and "for the parents to claim any injustice regarding this issue is at best forgetful and at worst disingenuous."

The principal posted a statement to parents about the situation on the school's Web site, using Bible verses to support the school's position. The principal quoted parts of the Old Testament about Joseph fleeing a place of temptation.

"The question as I see it is, should a Christian place themselves at an event where young ladies will have low-cut dresses and be dancing in them?" the principal wrote. "Isn't it contrary to the example of Joseph and the verses that I stated?"

But Tyler said it's unfair for the school not to trust him to uphold values at the prom.

"If they'd been telling me what's right and what's wrong for the 13 years I've been there, it upsets me they don't think I can make that decision," he said.

The issue, said Tyler's stepfather, Mr. Johnson, is that the school's rules shouldn't govern the teen's personal life. The letter about the suspension didn't highlight a specific rule or policy that his stepson violated, Mr. Johnson said.

"We're not arguing religion, any of that. Not at all. We're arguing that it wasn't in the rule book," he said.

Members of Findlay High's student council asked its principal yesterday if he would consider letting Tyler participate in their graduation ceremony because he is banned from his.

Mr. Kupferberg said that although he understands the concern, the school allows its own students to participate only if they meet certain criteria. He added that it wouldn't be fair for a Findlay High student not to be allowed to walk with his class if the school said it was OK for a student from another school to participate.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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