SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — High school students who attended “secret proms” in a southern New Mexico school district won’t face disciplinary actions, and their schools will resume in-person classes sooner than previously thought, school officials said Monday.

The decisions follow an investigation into private house parties in the Las Cruces Public Schools district and backlash from some elected officials over the move to preemptively suspend in-person learning for all students at Mayfield High School.

Superintendent Ralph Ramos told the Las Cruces Sun-News that the event had 200 to 500 students not wearing face masks, according to an investigation that involved state education and health officials.

“To me, that’s a huge concern. I’m not here to police private properties,” Ramos said, but added that a mass gathering of more than 10 people “brings safety concerns to us at LCPS.”

The investigation began last Wednesday after a complaint was filed with the governor’s office. School officials also discovered at least one other large student party billed as a secret prom, though with greater adherence to COVID-19 safe practices, Ramos said.

After initially ordering students to stay home until April 26, officials have recalculated the quarantine time from the date of the event, not the complaint, allowing Mayfield High School to return to in-person learning on April 20.

Students from other high schools were notified individually that they need to quarantine, but their schools were not closed.

Student organizers of the secret proms won’t face punishment for the private events.

“We have not disciplined anybody,” Ramos told the Las Cruces Sun-News, adding that the investigation is focused on safety.

High schools in the district are in the process of planning socially distanced proms.


Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.