May 7 (Reuters) - Southern California high school students are facing scrutiny and fresh allegations of sexism over rumors they have used an NFL-style draft to choose their female partners to an annual dance, officials said on Wednesday.
A Newport-Mesa Unified School District official on Wednesday gave Reuters a copy of a letter sent by a top school official to parents of students at Corona del Mar High School, in posh Orange County, but declined to discuss the matter in detail.
"I am sure that the intention of this 'draft' is not to be harmful, but it may be. It is not OK for any student to be objectified or judged in any way," school principal Kathy Scott wrote in a letter to parents.
Scott urged parents to convey the "seriousness" of such behavior, raising the possibility of canceling the event.
"What I understand is that male students purchase draft tickets and females are then 'drafted' as dates for the prom," Scott wrote.
The exact system and whether money exchanged hands - or any specific punishment they may face - was unclear.
Local media reported boys pick numbers at random, which assigns the order in the selection process, though it was possible to pay for an earlier turn.
The Los Angeles Times newspaper reported that students donning sports coats held the draft in a rented venue and were each allotted two minutes to select a date for the prom. Some 40 students were involved.
"If they treat women this way at this age, what will they do then when they're of legal age," parent Vivian Rowe said, according to a local CBS-affiliate.
The American Civil Liberties Union said in 2009 it settled a lawsuit against the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and Corona del Mar High School over what the advocacy group called "a sexist and homophobic atmosphere" at the school.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Eric Meijer)