Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Because prejudice and discrimination are so hurtful, I think we should do away with them in our public schools.

Abby, what is more discriminatory than the senior prom?

The poor, the frugal, the shy, the unpopular, the plain and the dateless are excluded. Many parents cannot afford all that is involved in this rite of passage: formal wear, corsages, limousines. The kid who is saving his cash for college, the student who has no "significant other," is a reject on the eve of what should be a joyous camaraderie including all members of the senior class.

Instead, this occasion has too often turned into a boisterous bash with overnight parties, drugs, drunk driving and death.

The above combination has made a farce of what was once a sensible, meaningful event. One father hired a horse-drawn carriage to transport his daughter to the prom!

I'm ready for a lot of flak in response to this letter, but I feel that there are many parents (and students) out there who agree with me, but are afraid to express it. -- D.B. IN OLYMPIA, WASH.

DEAR D.B.: Every year the newspapers carry pictures of handsome young men and beautiful girl graduates who have died in fiery automobile crashes on prom night. Rather than completely doing away with this rite of passage, it should be rethought. Some schools have already done this by transporting the young people to and from the dance or party in buses, and keeping the celebration alcohol-free. Others have turned it into a special night out (to a play, a theme park, etc.) that doesn't require a date.

I would be interested to hear what other schools and parents are doing to safeguard their young people on graduation night.

DEAR ABBY: Who says what's "right" when a woman wants to have a formal second wedding? My sister has been married once before. Her wedding was very large and very formal. She is now engaged again to a young man who has never been married.

Her wedding party started out to be six, including the bride and groom. It has now been reduced to four. We will all be dressed in gowns and tuxedos.

This is the late '90s, and we're heading into a new century. My sister feels there is nothing wrong with a second formal wedding as long as it's the first for the groom, and I agree.

If it's the bride's first wedding and the groom's second, no one would comment. But when it's the bride's second and the groom's first, why must it be small and informal? Shouldn't it be up to the bride and groom, rather than anyone else?

My sister's wedding will be small, with a few friends and the immediate family, but some of the traditions will be included, such as throwing the bridal bouquet, first dance, dollar dance, photographs, father-daughter dance, etc.

What are your thoughts on this? -- FORMAL OR NOT, BOWDOIN, MAINE

DEAR FORMAL OR NOT: I agree with your sister. Since it is the groom's first wedding, I see no reason why he should be penalized because his bride has been previously married.

The old rules about what is appropriate have relaxed in recent years. It is perfectly acceptable for the couple to have a formal wedding with all the trimmings.

My congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600