FORT MYERS - Punished for reading?
A Cypress Lake High School freshman was blocked from going to homecoming because of an overdue library book.
"This is my dress I got for homecoming," said Dominique Stearns, showing off her gold and white dress.
She says she went to at least 10 stores and spent hours shopping with her mom trying to find the perfect dress.
"[I was looking forward to] getting dressed up really pretty and taking pretty pictures," she said.
When she went to buy her ticket to the dance she was told she couldn't go because she had an overdue library book.
"I thought she was lying," said Dominique.
Dominique's mother went to the high school to complain. She says the principal, Tracy Perkins, was unwilling to work with her.
"She did not care one bit," said Dominique's Mom, Danielle Olmstead. "She asked me what grade she's in, I said freshman; she said 'Oh there's always next year.'"
Dominique is in the accelerated reading program at the high school. Two or three weeks ago she checked out a murder mystery that was overdue when she went to buy the ticket.
She offered to bring the book back that day but the school wouldn't budge.
"She's not being punished because she got into a fight or anything like that," said Olmstead. "She's getting punished because she had an overdue library book for reading. It's ridiculous."
To make things worse, Dominique says she was never told when the book was due back. The back jacket has no stamped return date.
"The District cannot comment on...anything involving students as that information, by law, is private and confidential," said Lee County School District spokesman Joe Donzelli.
"What the District can address is any assertion," he went on to say, "that a student would be punished for wanting to read is completely false and totally inappropriate."
The school's July newsletter did tell parents that "students must have a zero balance for all fees and fines to participate in some special extracurricular activities or privileges."
Still, Dominique feels her punishment was too harsh.
"They're pathetic," she said about the school. "And they need to worry about more serious things."
Dominique missed this year's homecoming. She hopes to attend next year.