The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Prom Night A Bust for One Local Teen

by Diane Spilker, Quill Staff

Do you remember your high school prom? Remember, the music, the dancing till dawn, the pictures, the after parties and the memories-wrapping yourself in the arms of the one you love, dancing to the last song of the night and bidding farewell to a year full of fun and lasting friendships. 

Well, for Kaela Covert-this night will remain both a mystery and a dream.

Illini West High School has denied Kaela the opportunity to attend her Junior Prom because her life-long boyfriend, now fiance, is over the "approved" age limit. It was a prom, which was to be a milestone in her life and one to be cherished forever-her first high school prom.

Kaela is a 17-year-old Junior, with a solid A/B average at Illini West High School in Carthage. 

She has hopes of going on to college (possibly Southeastern Community College), she says, where she will study cosmetology. 

She is the daughter of Ron and Beth Covert and plays softball in the summer ball program in La Harpe. She is currently working for the La Harpe Family Restaurant and the La Harpe Davier Care Center.

Although born in Pennsylvania, she has resided in the La Harpe/Terre Haute area for as long as she can remember.

Her life-long love, Tyler Ferguson is currently 22 years of age, which seems to be where the problem lies. 

He is employed full-time with Covert's Trucking, an organization ran by her father, Ron Covert. Tyler has resided in Lomax and graduated from La Harpe High School. 

He obtained his CDL license through Southeastern Community College and drives long-range trips to California. 

The happy couple has been dating for 5 years and got engaged this past Valentine's Day. They have plans of marriage in 2010, after Kaela has completed college and has an established job. 

The prom is to be held on April 19, 2008 at the Ambeuince in Quincy, and is paid for by the Junior class members. The tickets went off sale on February 26, 2008. Kaela has been working diligently to get Illini West to allow her fiance to attend with her; however, at this point, if approved, they can't obtain tickets for the prom.

The problem is that, in the past, the couple have attended dances through the La Harpe High School without ANY concerns or problems. However, since the conversion, there have been nothing but problems for this couple. 

Illini West's 2008 handbook states "Guests at all high school dances must be in high school or under the age of 21 and have photo ID to present to obtain entrance into the event." Which of course, excludes Tyler, who is now 22 years of age. 

Kaela feels that this "is unfair and she strongly disagrees". She also states "this was not a problem until the consolidation and it's her first prom. She wants to attend her first prom with her life-long boyfriend."

Kaela and her family have worked diligently to get this changed, not just for Kaela but for everyone coming up that may have the same problem. They have provided the school board with character references from both close friends and former teachers of Tyler, a petition of over 300 signatures located at various locations in the area, a personal appeal from Kaela and community supporters. 

One such supporter stated the point, "that we all have age differences in our lives but that does not make us bad or immoral individuals". Petitions were placed at various businesses such as Ayerco, The Pink, La Harpe Family Restaurant, Casey'sin Dallas City and La Harpe, Post Office in Lomax, R & D Foods, Eddie & Rae's and Dollar General in La Harpe. 

Even though some of the petitions got thrown away and disposed of, she still had some support from local communities. Each board member received this information, nicely presented, on last Tuesday night, March 11th.  After reviewing the information, the board denied her appeal and "refused to change the rule".

Without any reason stated and without any voting information, this was the 2nd denial for Kaela's appeal. The first came in February 2008, when she attended the board meeting on February 13, 2008.

At this point, no results were given and the family had to call for a final decision, since tickets for the prom were going off sale on February 26, 2008. 

On February 25th, they discovered that the board denied her appeal, without any notice to her or her family. 

Kaela has also taken her story to the papers and news, trying to gain more support. WGEM, of Quincy, has ran a segment on the issue for three days in support of Kaela's situation.

Also, The Hawk Eye Newspaper and local papers have generated some interest in writing pieces to spread the news of Kaela's situation. On Saturday, it was brought to my attention, that Kaela has now made National attention, with her news piece being seen on CNN Newscasts and also getting telephone calls from the Illinois State Board of Education and the Governor's Office.

Kaela states "at this time, I don't care about prom. I don't want to spend the money to go alone. I want to go with him or not at all." She is also considering being home schooled or transferred as a result of this denial from Illini West.

The only question that her family has is "If they have to follow the Student Handbook, why doesn't everyone else have the same rules to follow, such as expulsion of stabbing innocent students? It makes no sense to us, why some get preferential treatment and others getting shafted."