Did you hear about the time that grandma tried to go to prom and wound up getting grounded?
Like the case of the passenger being dragged off an airplane or a tone-deaf ad agency using social protests to sell soft drinks, it’s such a ridiculous story that you almost can’t believe it happened. You know people can be thickheaded, but you hold out hope that – at those moments that define us – they'll come to their senses and do the right thing.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in Eufaula, Alabama, a town of nearly 15,000 people just over an hour southeast of Montgomery.
It was there that 69-year-old Catherine Maine recently made national headlines because – to put it simply – her 18-year-old grandson, Bryce, is a fine young man.
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That’s right. While many other young people think the world revolves around them, and so they’re busy worshipping at the altar of their holy trinity – Me, Myself, and I – we’ve found one who thinks about other people.
And, when the time came to decide who he would invite to prom on April 8, what Bryce thought about was that his grandmother had, many years earlier, missed the chance to attend her own spring soiree. So he invited her to accompany him.
“My grandma is the most important woman in my life, and she’s never had a prom before. So I figured why not let her go with me?” Bryce told the television show, “Inside Edition.”
Naturally, Catherine was overwhelmed. She told a local television station: “I just thought, well, it’s just so nice that he wanted me to go. I kept asking him, ‘Don’t you want to take someone else?' But he kept saying, ‘No, I want my Nanny.’ So I was just so shocked, privileged that he asked me.”
So Grandma happily accepted. She even bought a new gown for the occasion.
If the story had ended there – as it should have – we would have been left with an adorable and heartwarming tale of family values and the payoff that comes from raising kids right.
But then, what role would there be for small-minded, busybody administrators who need to micromanage every detail at their school, even if it means creating a problem where one doesn’t exist? So, as word spread around town that Bryce was taking a special guest to prom, the school principal asserted his power and declared that Catherine could not attend the event.
In a statement to the media, Eufaula City Schools principal Steve Hawkins explained that – in order to protect the “safety of students and staff” – prom attendees must be 20 years old or younger, and he claimed that he can’t break the rules.
So Nanny is a security risk? Shouldn’t someone warn Pappy?
Bryce told a local reporter that the reason the school gave him was “alcohol … in case, you know, she was trying to distribute it to minors.”
Imagine that. Nanny a bootlegger! You just never know.
Besides, Hawkins said, “most high schools have an age limit for prom attendees.”
That’s probably true, but surely they could have made an exception for Nanny.
Bryce told the reporter he was “heartbroken.”
That’s understandable. This story will do that to you. Of course, it'll also make you furious.
Social media took note, and a hashtag was born: #LetNannyGoToProm. People from around the country tweeted their support for the Maines, along with a few choice words for Hawkins and the other dimwits who run the school.
@MichelleRB3 summed it up when she sarcastically worried about starting “a trend of grandsons (and granddaughters) showing kindness towards their grandparents.”
Luckily, there are still some decent people in the world. Grandson and grandmother were invited to dine on the house at the Eufaula Country Club. So they got dressed up, and had their own party. Kindness prevailed. So should we leave it there? All’s well that ends well?
I don’t think so. Given how poorly the powers-that-be at the school handled this situation, it’s obvious that all is not well. Some public shaming is in order, and a certain grandma is owed an apology.
Still, we have a more serious problem. Our schools used to reflect society’s values; these days, there’s hardly any resemblance. Parents count on schools to teach the three “R’s.” Yet what these administrators need is a crash course in the three “C’s”: compassion, character and common sense.
And if the educators have trouble with these subjects, they can follow the example of an 18-year-old who has mastered them.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.’s email address is email@example.com. A former Fresnan, he is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group.