Law enforcement officials offer prom safety advice

SOCSD Police Chief Sammy Shumaker (left) and SPD Public Information Officer Brandon Lovelady
Staff Writer

With prom season in full swing, local law enforcement officials are offering advice for students to safely celebrate the event.

Starkville Police Department Public Information Officer Brandon Lovelady saidparents should talk with their children before prom about the dangers of drinking and drug use, drunk driving and distracted driving, and children and parents should plan ahead regarding curfew and other plans after prom.

Lovelady said some important safety advice parents should give their children includes: don’t do anything they are uncomfortable with, wearing a seatbelt, don’t use a phone while driving, let parents know where you are and follow the buddy system.

Starkville Oktibbeha County School District Chief of Police Sammy Shumaker said places with drugs and alcohol should be avoided, even if students don’t intend to partake in them.

“Stay away from alcohol and drugs and steer clear of places where those things may be present,” Shumaker said. “You may not plan to participate in that, but sometimes other people do things will jeopardize other’s safety.”

Shumaker said students are always encouraged to refrain from texting or using social media while driving, especially this Saturday because storms are forecasted for the area.

“If you are driving and you get a message, hand the phone over to your passenger and let them respond,” Lovelady said. “They are just as capable of responding to that message as you are, and if it is an emergency you can pull over to the shoulder or a safe area to answer the phone. A simple ‘yes,’ ‘no’ or ‘we’ll be there in a minute’ isn’t worth your life.”

Shumaker said in the past, parents or older family and friends have rented hotel rooms for students to use after prom.

“We’ve had incidents in the past where we’ve had students there because of alcohol or drugs with underage people, there have been unwanted sexual incidents,” Shumaker said.

Not only is renting a hotel room a hazard for students, Shumaker said, whoever rents the room is held responsible. Providing alcohol to minors and hosting parties is also illegal and strongly discouraged.

Shumaker also encouraged parents to tell students that when they leave the prom scene and go to other establishments, to be mindful of other customers and be respectful of the rest of the public.

Shumaker said his department will be on duty during the prom to ensure everyone’s safety.

“We’re there to support the students initially to benefit them by keeping them safe, but at the same time, we’re there to patrol and observe,” Shumaker said.

Shumaker said officers will also be watching for students at prom under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“If you show up under those circumstances you will be dealt with in the school disciplinary system and the criminal system,” Shumaker said.

Lovelady said SPD will also have an increased presence on prom night.

“Just like any other night we will be there to support the school district with anything they need, and we will increase our presence in the area,” Lovelady said.