She wanted to go to prom to honor her friend who drowned. Wake Forest High said no.

Wake Forest High School won’t allow a teen to attend Saturday’s prom to honor a student who was drowned in a swimming accident off Emerald Isle last week.

Ian Frazier Lewis, 18, a senior at Wake Forest High, and Emilie Boyd, 17, a junior at Rolesville High, planned to go together to each other’s proms, which are being held over the next two weekends.

Both Lewis and Mary Paige Merical, 17, were caught in a rip current while swimming off Emerald Isle last Friday. Lewis’ body was recovered Monday, and Merical’s family plans to remove her from life support because of the brain damage she suffered while underwater.

In the face of the tragedy, Boyd planned to go to this weekend’s prom at Wake Forest High to honor her friend. But Wake Forest High notified her Thursday that she would not be allowed to attend the prom. The tickets were in Lewis’ name.

“This has been a difficult and emotional week for many Wake Forest High School students and staff,” Tim Simmons, a Wake County school spokesman, said in a statement Friday. “Our hearts go out to the families of Ian and Paige and those who are grieving.

“Several memorials and vigils have been held and more are planned. After speaking yesterday with many who are directly involved, we decided a high school prom would not be an appropriate setting to memorialize a student.”

But the decision has upset Boyd and some community members.

“While I was sincerely hoping to have the opportunity to attend Wake Forest Prom with my friends in order to celebrate the life of someone very dear to my heart, I have been denied the opportunity,” Boyd said in a statement Friday.

“After discussing with both my family and Ian’s, we have decided to respect the decision of the county and I will not be attending. I hope everyone in attendance has a lovely night, and I am looking forward to my own prom with Rolesville High School.”

Some students have been coming to Boyd’s defense, tweeting that she should be allowed to attend the Wake Forest prom.

“Yesterday she was denied the right for her prom ticket,” Jenna Bacon, a Wake Forest High junior tweeted Friday at the school and the district. “Doing this doesn’t just make it harder for Emilie but it won’t remove the feelings around this tragedy. We are trying to not just unite the Wake Forest high school family but the whole Wake County community.”

Lewis, a member of a North Carolina FC Youth soccer team, asked Boyd to the prom in the middle of a soccer game. After scoring at a game on March 31, he stopped the action to grab a sign from his mother, asking Boyd to the prom. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the team that Lewis was playing on.)

“Ian and I both were really excited for prom,” Boyd previously told the News & Observer. “We couldn’t wait to go together. We had such big plans for it.”

Wake Forest’s prom occurs the same day that the Lewis family will hold a visitation from 4-7 p.m. at Bright Funeral Home & Cremation, 405 S. Main St. in Wake Forest. Funeral services will be Sunday at 1 p.m. at Binkley Chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 120 S Wingate St, Wake Forest.

Services haven’t been announced yet for Merical.

Boyd created a GoFundMe page for Lewis at gofundme.com/green-for-ian that had raised more than $13,000 as of Friday morning. Proceeds will be used by the family to set up a scholarship fund in Ian’s memory.

A GoFundMe page for Merical at gofundme.com/jtks52-prayers-for-paige had also raised more than $13,000 as of Friday morning.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.