Students from across Carroll County dance through the decades at first special needs prom since 2019 – Baltimore Sun


Pupils from all public secondary schools in Carroll County walked a red carpet in the gymnasium at Winters Mill Secondary School in Westminster and ‘danced through the decades’ at a very special ball on Friday afternoon.

The county-wide special needs prom was held for the first time this week since the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellations in 2020 and 2021. Students with special needs who may not be able to attend their home school’s prom for various reasons, such as health or safety issues or difficulties with the venue, are invited to attend each year, enjoy food, music and socializing with their peers, and crowning a prom king and queen from each school.

The idea started in 2013, when a teacher and class assistant at Liberty High School decided to throw a prom in their class. An event for all high school special needs classes began the following year.

“The first reason was to give students who couldn’t attend prom the opportunity to experience the same as their peers,” said coordinator Julie Koontz, special education consultant for Carroll County Public Schools.

“The second [reason] was to create more opportunities for students to interact with each other. Many students would leave their home school and move on to Transition Connections Academy and then adult services. The students did not know each other and this made the transition socially difficult for the students.

On Friday, the students arrived at Winters Mill around 11 a.m. and enjoyed music from different decades. Each school was able to bring general education students who are members of their school’s Friends for Life or Best Buddies clubs to the ball to dance and interact with students with special needs. Adult support was also available for anyone who needed it.

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Besides being a fun and social event, the prom also serves an educational purpose.

“There are lessons about elections and majority rule, party planning, job skills for a big event, we’ve created items for fundraisers, making decorations, and planning a party. a menu,” Koontz said. “Our speech therapists work with students on social skills, how to ask someone to dance, how to accept it gracefully if someone refuses a dance, and what to do if someone asks your dance partner to dance with him.”

Sharon Cassatt, an alternative setting teacher at FSK High School, said students and staff all look forward to prom each year.

“We love to dance at the ball, and the students are always the ones teaching us new dances,” Cassatt said.

Funds from the canceled 2020 event were used to host this year’s prom. Each school organizes fundraisers, such as restaurant nights or food or plant sales, and also seeks donations from the community.

Cassatt says the event is always a fun time.

“I can’t express how amazing this event is for the students,” she said, adding that it gives students a place “where they can be themselves and feel accepted.”


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