The Sailors' Log Mona Shores High School Norton Shores, MI
Issue Date: Friday, March 04, 2011 Issue: March 4, 2011 Last Update: Friday, March 04, 2011
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Administrators decide on gender-neutral Prom courts after controversy involving a transgender student
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After an international controversy regarding a Shores transgender student this past Homecoming, Shores administrators have decided to set a new and definitive process for the upcoming Prom court.

In May, students of the junior and senior classes will vote for a gender-neutral prom court. No decision has been made regarding next year’s Homecoming court.

"There is not really a set process for either Homecoming or Prom courts," said principal Jennifer Bustard, who received international criticism for the Homecoming decision last fall. "Because of this, we brought in student leaders starting last fall for discussions in hopes that we could come up with a plan for the future."

These discussions were prompted after Shores was the center of attention this past fall regarding the fact that Shores nullified Homecoming King ballots for Oak Reed.

Reed, whose birth name is Oakleigh Marie Reed, is a transgender and launched a campaign via Facebook to run for the ceremonial position of Homecoming King.

Due to the fact that Reed is listed as a female in school records, the school nullified his votes. Ms. Bustard said this decision was based on legal opinion provided by district attorneys and is supported by a Michigan statute which states that schools must recognize each student on the basis of his/her anatomical identity.

Now that this controversy has settled down, administrators are looking for a compromise and hope that a gender-neutral Prom court will allow equal opportunities for all students.

"As a principal, it is very important to make sure I look out for all students," Ms. Bustard said. "I believe gender-neutral courts will give all students the opportunity to participate and be recognized by their peers in the Prom court process."

This decision was not based solely on the opinions of administrators, but Student Senate leaders Emily Olsen, Maggie Barnard, Kaitlyn Rabach, and Andrea Partenio, all seniors, were also asked to contribute ideas.

"I am really happy that the administration asked the student leaders to participate in the discussion regarding this issue," said Olsen, who is president of Student Senate. "It is nice to see that they want the students’ input."

Following the emotional roller-coaster ride that the fall brought for Reed, he said he is happy to see that Shores is changing the Prom court process.

"I appreciate their decision to avoid discrepancies between traditional ballots and gender identities," Reed said. "In the long run, many students will be helped, and I feel grateful that I can contribute to that."

Jay Kaplan of The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who became involved in the controversy last fall and is one of the reasons that it became an international issue, agrees with Reed on Shores’ new process of gender-neutral representatives.

"We think the school district did the right thing in terms that every student can participate to be on the Prom court," said Kaplan, the ACLU’s attorney for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Legal Project. "By getting rid of the policies saying that only a girl can run for queen and only a boy can run for King, the school has recognized that all students can participate. The school district has created a good model for other districts to follow. It will be a great to see the Prom courts this spring and that it will not be limited to a students’ gender. It is all about who the senior and junior class wishes to represent them."

At the end of the day, Ms. Bustard said the process of gender-neutral courts was her personal recommendation.

Before the decision was made, four options were on the table: having gender-neutral courts, allowing students to run for either gender, maintaining the status quo of anatomical girl for Queen and anatomical boy for King, or removing the long tradition of Prom King and Queen.

Ms. Bustard said administrators saw pros and cons for all of the options but believed gender-neutral courts were the best path to take.

However, some high school students disagree with the decision and are seeking alternative paths.

Seniors George Cannon and Hilary Rohlman have come up with the idea of a boycotting Shores’ Prom and renting a hall to host their own.

"(Changing the Prom court) is unfair, and I am not trying to get back at the administration but just trying to prove a point," Rohlman said. "These are our traditions, and a tradition this big should not be changed due to one incident but due to many reasons. This is not a Prom to take a side, but it is going to be a care-free event that anyone with any belief can come to."

Administrators will be testing the new gender-neutral process out for Prom and then plan on discussing options for Homecoming next fall.

"There is never going to be a way to make all parties satisfied," Ms. Bustard said. "This a compromise, and I look at this in a way where gender is not an issue and the school can just have a court. After Prom, we will sit down again and have discussions on how to proceed for upcoming events."

 


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