The girls were spending hundreds of dollars on formal wear, the guys almost as much on tuxedos. Thousands went into the limo, rental houses in the Hamptons, the flowers and the pictures. Students were showing up to the prom drunk, the liquor bought and served by their parents.
It is a problem faced by high schools across the country, but Brother Kenneth Hoagland, principal of Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, N.Y., had had enough. In an unprecedented move, he canceled the school's prom.
"I think the prom itself is out of control and it's really beyond reform," Hoagland told "Good Morning America." "These are great kids, we just don't want to put them in harm's way."
In a letter explaining his decision to 489 parents, Hoagland wrote, "It is not primarily the sex/booze/drugs that surround this event, as problematic as they might be. It is rather the flaunting of affluence, assuming exaggerated expenses, a pursuit of vanity for vanity's sake -- in a word, financial decadence."
Parents at the school have had mixed reactions to the decision, but Hoagland said he has received overwhelming support from people across the country.
"We've received a thousand or so phone calls or e-mails expressing support because the prom culture is sick," he said.
Many of the students feel they are being punished for the behavior of previous classes.
"I can understand why they would do it," said Ryan Glander, a senior at Uniondale. "I don't understand why they wouldn't put restrictions on us, and not just cancel it. Our class had nothing to do with anything that happened last year."
Hoagland said the problem extends beyond individual students to issues endemic to prom culture.
One boy in Ohio arrived at his prom in a helicopter; a girl in California bought an $8,000 Versace gown for her prom; another girl acknowledged having liposuction to fit into her prom dress; at Kellenberg, one group of students spent $20,000 on a rental house in the Hamptons after the prom.
"Each year it gets worse, becomes more exaggerated, more expensive, more emotionally traumatic," Hoagland said in his letter. "We are withdrawing from the battle and allowing parents full responsibility. Kellenberg is willing to sponsor a prom, but not an orgy."
Some parents are trying to organize an off-campus prom and part of their fundraising efforts include selling T-shirts that read "Got Prom?"
"It's not the school's responsibility of what goes on after the prom, it's the responsibility of the students and the parents of what goes on," said Eddie Lawson, the parent of a Kellenberg senior.
Hoagland supports that decision.
"If parents want to have a party for the entire senior class and set down the parameters for that and run it, that's fine," Hoagland told "Good Morning America." "But I can tell you it would be a very difficult thing to control. I would hope they would read my letter and try to address these issues.… The prom can seriously harm their children if it's not supervised."
Hoagland said many of the seniors have read his letter and are responding by coming up with their own alternatives.