Autistic teen turned away from prom because his sister was too old to attend as his date
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Tenn. – Senior prom is supposed to be a happy rite of passage for high school students, but a Montgomery County dad says his special needs son’s prom turned into a nightmare.
WKRN TV reported autistic 19-year-old Jayce Whisenhunt did not have a prom date so he asked his older sister Jessica Hellig to go with him. The siblings were looking forward to the special event. Helling said her eyes filled with tears becasue "I was so honored for him to ask me."
“I was really excited and I was getting all ready. I couldn’t wait to go,” Jayce told News 2. “I asked her because I don’t have anybody else for a friend, nobody else to hang out with. I don’t got nobody else I know from school.”
But when they arrived at Montgomery Central High School’s prom, Jayce's father D.J. Cricket says his daughter was turned away because she was too old.
Jessica is 24 years old and is a graduate of the high school. She says she never dreamed going to prom with her special needs brother would be a problem, but she was stopped at the door and told no one older than 20 was allowed to attend. Jayce said he did not want to stay at the prom without his sister, so he left.
Jessica said the moment was emotional, saying, “It was heartbreaking. It took everything for me not to bawl and squall crying because he had looked so forward to it.”
The boy’s father was outraged by the situation and took to social media to express his frustration.
“He had nobody to invite to the prom because he has no friends,” Crickett said. “They should make a rule for special needs kids.”
He added, “Every kid deserves to go to their prom and for them to be so excited and dressed up to the max and then to be sent away.”
Crickett has gained tremendous support and one woman has even volunteered to organize a special prom just for Jayce next month.
News 2 reached out to Montgomery County Schools. The district confirmed the age limit for prom guests is 20 years old and each guest must be approved ahead of time.
Elise Shelton with Montgomery Count Schools told News 2, “Students either have to attend the school or if they want to submit the name of a guest they want to bring who is 19 or 20, they can’t be older than 20, they need to submit the name.”
Shelton explained it’s how they can do background checks to make sure it’s a safe and secure environment for all students.
“The student’s family should have contacted the school before the moment that prom was to start and said work with us on that,” she added. “We would have been happy to work with any family that has special needs or otherwise and ndid not happen.”
Shelton also said a copy of the rules was sent home with students before the prom. However, the family says Jayce did not receive a copy of the rules and they were unaware of the age limit.