Kyle Davidson, Detroit Free Press
Published May 20, 2021 | Updated May 21, 2021
Southfield Public Schools is facing backlash after an announcement that this year's prom would be free for fully vaccinated students.
According to the school's weekly update for May 17, admission to prom will be free for vaccinated students, while unvaccinated students and guests will need to purchase an $80 ticket.
While all students will require a ticket for prom, a private philanthropic organization will cover the cost for children whose families choose to receive the coronavirus vaccine, said Jennifer Green, superintendent of Southfield Public Schools.
This organization has asked to remain anonymous, Green said.
While the school received criticism for accepting this donation, Green said the school district has worked with other philanthropic organizations to sponsor things like yard signs for seniors, and that outside sponsorship was not exclusive to the prom.
Green said the initiative was intended to support this year's senior class after they were out of school for most of their senior year.
"We never even considered there being backlash, given it is the family's choice. We are not forcing anyone. To vaccinate or not vaccinate is an individual choice. We are not prohibiting students from attending, we are not separating or segregating students who choose not to receive the vaccine or do receive the vaccine," Green said. "We simply want to provide our students an opportunity to celebrate this milestone in their life."
Green said vaccinated students will have their status verified through the Michigan Care and Improvement Registry.
In response to the announcement, Informed Choice Michigan will hold a protest at Southfield High School for the Arts & Technology on Friday. The protest will coincide with a pop-up vaccination clinic for Southfield students ages 12 and older.
According to the organization's Facebook page, Informed Choice Michigan is a coalition of Michigan community members, made up of concerned citizens, parents, physicians and nurses formed in alliance with Informed Choice USA.
On its post announcing the protest, the organization said the school's actions will lead to discrimination, harassment and bullying.
When Southfield Public schools announced its most recent vaccination clinic on Facebook, multiple people offered to sponsor tickets for unvaccinated students.
While the school provided an address for people to send their donations, some of the potential donors asked for a way to ensure the money went directly toward unvaccinated students.
"If they are true to their word and we receive that funding, then we will extend those incentives as well," Green said.
Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press
May 21, 2021
Concerned citizens from different groups like Informed Choice Michigan, Michigan Freedom Keepers and Detroit-Metro Holistic Moms Network protest outside of Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology in Southfield, during the hours of their COVID-19 vaccination clinic on May 21, 2021. The school is letting students who are vaccinated go to prom for free, but unvaccinated students must pay $80 to get in.
Priya Mann, Click on Detroit
May 21, 2021
A protest was held at Southfield High School Friday after an anonymous donor volunteered to buy prom tickets for vaccinated students.
A vaccine clinic at the Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology was supposed to be another convenient way for students to get the shot, but a controversy over prom tickets brought out protesters.
“It’s not right to make someone get vaccinated in order to go to prom,” one protester said.
Southfield Public Schools superintendent Dr. Jennifer Martin-Green said that’s not the case.
“There is misinformation in the community that the district is discriminating against those students who are not electing to become vaccinated. This is misinformation,” Martin-Green said. “We are not barring anyone from attending. Everyone will need a ticket. The only difference is someone is paying for the ticket of those students whose families select for them to be vaccinated.”
The district is not identifying students who did or did not get vaccinated or separating them based on their family’s decisions.
One mother showed up Friday with her 9th grade son to get him vaccinated.
“I’ve already gotten both of my shots so I wanted to encourage my son to have him do it,” she said. “I feel much safer now that he’s got his first dose.”
The district said they’ve gotten requests from people wishing to cover the $80 prom ticket for students who don’t get vaccinated. They can contact the district to forward a payment if they choose too.
Taryn Asher, Fox 2 Detroit
May 21, 2021
Southfield High School students, who are vaccinated will have their prom ticket paid for by a private donor, but those who are unvaccinated will have to pay $80 to attend.
"We are not as a district, discriminating over one group or another," said Dr. Jennifer Green, superintendent. "All students will have an opportunity to go to prom."
FOX 2: "Aren't you penalizing the kids that aren't getting vaccinated by charging them $80?"
"No we are charging everyone $80 dollars to attend," Green said. "Someone, that is is a private donor from a philanthropic organization, is covering that $80 fee.
"The district is giving them all an opportunity for all students to attend."
The school's decision to let an anonymous person sponsor only vaccinated students set social media on fire.
Organizations like Informed Choice Michigan, who did not respond to FOX 2 requests for an interview, have claimed the district's actions will lead to discrimination, harassment, and bullying by other students.
Green says that's not the intention and that all students are welcome.
"All will be at the same facility, all will have the same opportunities, and all hopefully, will be able to enjoy this milestone together," Green said.
FOX 2: "Is this a motivation to get vaccinated?"
"It's an incentive to receive the vaccine," Green said.
That's not good enough for some groups who believe the incentive is discouraging a student's right to choose.
They have planned a protest planned at a pre-scheduled pop-up Covid vaccine clinic at the high school on Friday.
Green, who is very concerned about divisiveness the protest could cause, says police will be standng by to make sure everythng goes smooth. The district's priority is to keep the community healthy and safe.
"We are indeed choice - to vaccinate or not to vaccinate is not the district's decision," Green said. "However as educator professionals have to provide opportunites per their request and we follow the science and the data."
May 22, 2021
Vaccinated seniors can gain free entry to Southfield High School's prom, thanks to an anonymous donor who said they'd cover the $80 ticket for as many students as needed.
Sounds like a good thing, right? Not to some.
Though there are numerous vaccine incentive programs out there — Detroit's public school district is, for example, offers $500 to vaccinated teachers — the free ticket offering has sparked accusations it could lead to discrimination, harassment and bullying. Opponents gathered during a pop-up vaccine clinic at the school Friday, holding signs that read things like "My Son is Not Your Experiment."
The district has tried to dispel what it calls "misinformation" about the incentive, telling WDIV it will not share which students did or did not get vaccinated, nor will it separate them during prom.
Still, those opposed to the campaign are now countering it with an offer to buy prom tickets for students who don't get vaccinated. Informed Choice Michigan, an anti-Covid shot group that promoted the Southfield event, earlier this week said the school district had not responded to those offers, but WDIV reports it is willing to accept payments for unvaccinated students too.