There are several stakeholders in school formals, and each has a completely different agenda in mind when they view the school formal phenomenon…
They want their dream event. They’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it and they’ll get one-shot to make it right. They see this as the one time to shine brighter than anyone has ever seen before. They’ve been stuck in a uniform, walking the line for most of their life. They’ve had zero opportunity to make their mark in their own fashion without restriction.
This is their moment to dress the way they like, wear hair & makeup in their own style, and for once they get to be treated like adults and waited on, appreciated and respected. This is how they’ll be remembered by all of their classmates for the rest of their lives. It’s also the last time they’ll see most of them and they’ve been through much together as a group.
They want their child to experience this dream event. They’ll facilitate whatever they can to help them achieve it, however they have other issues.
They want to know that their kids will be safe, among people that care for them and protect them, that they’ll be well fed, well treated and most of all that they’ll have fun.
The school administration will of course want the students to have a great time, however their concerns lie in the compliance. Concerns include who’s running the event and what safeguards are in place to protect the school. Financial liability, civil and legal issues, exposure of the name and reputation of the school may be at risk, and what of the department and the hierarchy of the education system. In some instances this can also include the hierarchy and policies of the many religious institutions that run many of our schools.
They understand the value of this market and they’re pursuing it with proactive vigour. They want access to as many teenagers as they can get. Not only because they make money from hosting the events, but because their marketing departments understand the power of establishing a brand loyalty with an emerging generation at a time when they’re experiencing an emotionally positive time.
Every small to medium enterprise providing adjunct goods and services to the formal, from entertainment to decorations, from photography to ticketing, from cakes to ice cream, wants their share of this market, and because statistics show that 75% of school formals operate Monday to Thursday, this is good news for suppliers because they have a fresh market that doesn’t interfere with traditional core markets operating on weekends.
The state knows this is all happening. They have forums, inquiries and organised compilations of data with great regularity. They’re casting eyes over this with diligence and interjecting with acts of parliament, harm minimisation programmes, new regulations, information dissemination programmes and compliance-checking with significant involvement. Much of what happens in this area can contain strong election issues.
They want to know that this is all being done according to the law, and the best interests of the teenagers. They’re not very concerned with much else.
The community at large has very strong opinions about everything that happens where teens are involved. They may not be involved directly but they vote, they complain, they voice their opinions in the media, they speak with or without authority and they attract attention to issues, right or wrong, good and bad.
They aren’t so much stakeholders as they are noisemakers. Why they’re important is that they buy the newspapers, ring talk-back radio and write to their local members if and when they see anything the like or don’t like. Without them, the whole thing might fly under the radar.
Media is a business like any other. The more eyes on, the more dollars made. There’s no more elegant a description than that. “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”. The humour is in the truth of that statement. They’re waiting, hunting, sniffing and ready to pounce as soon as something juicy presents itself. They’ll throw petrol on any spark so they can report the blaze and sell the glory to their sponsors.
I elaborate on this in further posts.
The only choice facing Principals and School Administrators now is whether or not to bite the bullet and get on board. This decision, in many instances, will be swayed by the perception of whom, or what entity, would carry the burden of liability-exposure in the event of anything going wrong with the event. “Yes or No” depending on “Who and How Much”.
The problem with this decision process is the flawed perception of the question, rather than the answer. The truth is that no matter whether the school controls the formal, or whether the students are left to their own devices, assuming that lifting your hands in the air and denying any permission or involvement with the school formal will protect you and your school from legal harm is a classic case of “Ostrich Mentality” (next post).
Continuing our series on “School Formals, Myths, Facts and the “Ostrich Mentality” by Elliot D I Kleiner