HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Dreams of a date to the homecoming dance were shattered for a 16-year-old Harrison County teenager, all because she is homeschooled.
Earlier this month, Lana Miske showed up for the homecoming dance at West Harrison High School, only to be turned away at the door. The reason was cited as her homeschooling status.
Now a junior in high school, Lana Miske attended Harrison County schools since kindergarten. She has cerebral palsy and now walks with a cane. Her parents pulled her out of school earlier this year because of her declining health and decided to continue her education at home.
Because of that, she can’t attend school functions, per the policy of the Harrison County School District. No homeschool students are allowed for safety reasons.
That’s the word from the assistant principal at West Harrison High, Michael Weaver.
“We want to make sure that when a student actually comes into one of our extracurricular activities, we have as much control over the situation as possible," he said.
Lana was all dressed up for the dance but had to leave.
“I felt like my heart had completely shattered. And I tried my best not to freak out and not to cry,” Lana recalled.
She added that her date, a student at the school, was supportive.
“We actually decided to go to Chuck E. Cheese instead because it doesn’t get any better than that. He stood by my side," said Lana.
Her father, Jeff Miske, is critical of the policy.
“That sounds like a homeschooled child may not have discipline, or respect towards authority or an adequate level of education. It sounds like a homeschooler is a criminal," he said.
Rilley Dabbs is also a former district student who is now homeschooled, bought a dress, but could not buy a ticket to the dance.
“It was like a slap in the face it felt like, because every alternative that we took, it was no, no, no. You can’t do that because you’re homeschooled. You’re not allowed to do that,” Dabbs explained.
So how does the no homeschoolers allowed period policy of the Harrison County School District compare to other school districts from across the coast? We conducted an informal survey.
Here’s what we found out: the Pascagoula, Hancock County and Gulfport school districts allow homeschoolers with a form filled out and approved by school officials prior to the event. Ocean Springs and Biloxi school districts have no restrictions on who can come to a dance or other event.
So the question remains, is there any wiggle room at all in this debate?
“Are there exceptions to this rule at West Harrison High School? No sir, there’s not," Weaver answered.
Should there be?
“No sir, there should not be," Weaver responded.
Not everyone agrees, including Jeff Miske.
“I feel the policy is very old and definitely needs a change, needs a refresh," he said.
Lana is left feeling isolated.
“It’s not my fault that I had to be taken out of school. Honestly, if I had things my way, I would be in school now as it is.”
Jeff Miske is on the agenda to speak to Harrison County school board members about the policy at the next board meeting on Oct. 1.