An autistic student in Tennessee said he felt "humiliated" at his high school prom after his sister was barred from entering due to age restrictions.
Jayce Whisenhunt invited his 24-year-old sister Jessica Helling to be his prom date. However, she was reportedly not allowed to enter the Montgomery Central High School prom on May 7 because she is over the age of 20.
"As soon as I said my age, she (the school principal) said, 'Oh no, no, no. You can't come in here. Nobody over the age of 20 can come in here,'" Helling told WSMV Nashville.
"I said, 'But ma'am, he's special needs. He's my little brother. We're siblings. It's not like we're boyfriend and girlfriend.'"
According to Montgomery County Schools spokeswoman Elise Shelton, Christy Houston, the school's principal, told Jayce he could stay, but his sister would not be allowed to enter, Fox News reports.
"If there had been a request for an exception to the rules, we certainly would have entertained that and worked with the family," Shelton said, "but at no time was there a request."
Tone Whisenhunt, Jayce and Helling's father, said the pair were unaware of the rule and that an exception should have been made for his special-needs son who just wanted his older sister by his side to protect him from bullying.
"Your kids have one prom and he didn't even get to go to it," Tone told WSMV. "That's what upsets me the most."
"I've been wanting to go for a while," Jayce said. He added that he and his sister have been holding dance parties for years, and he planned to show off his dance moves at prom.
The local community is now raising funds through a GoFundMe campaign to throw an all-ages prom for the siblings and their supporters in the exact same location. The page, which was launched on May 9, raised over $6,000 in two days.
"It's going to be really fun," Jayce told WSMV. "I cannot wait to go to prom because when I heard about it, I started getting excited again."
His big sister will also be invited as prom queen.