School That Refused To Allow Transgender Student To Be Homecoming King Will Have Gender-Neutral Prom Court

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
February 14, 2011 4:45 pm

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School Changes Policy After ACLU Intervenes On Student’s Behalf

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GRAND RAPIDS– The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan welcomed today’s announcement by Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Michigan that it will allow students to vote for a “prom court” this spring rather than a prom queen or king. The announcement comes after controversy erupted in the fall when the school denied transgender student Oak Reed the chance to be homecoming king. The ACLU, with assistance from the law firm Sidley Austin LLP, sent the school a letter following the homecoming vote expressing concern about suppressing free speech and discrimination based on gender identity. Voting for the upcoming prom court will be open to all juniors and seniors.

“I’m so glad that the rules have been changed. All I wanted was a chance for all students to participate and be heard,” said Reed. “Now my classmates and I can just focus on having a great time at our school dance.”

Reed is a popular student at Mona Shores who has identified as a male from a very young age. His male identity is widely accepted by his teachers and classmates. He was permitted to wear a male uniform for the marching band and will wear a male cap and gown for graduation. However, after his classmates voted for him to serve as homecoming king, the school district said that Reed could not be chosen because his school records indicate that he is female.

“Oak is a popular student who is accepted by his peers for who he is,” said Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project staff attorney. “He had no reason to expect to be treated differently by school officials. We’re glad that the school district recognizes that its treatment of Oak was wrong, and that it has instituted more inclusive policies.”

Following the ACLU’s letter, the school changed the policy for the upcoming prom, as well as for future homecoming events.

“Schools should provide a welcoming and safe environment for all students, and should be free from discrimination,” said John Knight, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. “We hope that Oak – and all of his classmates – will not have to worry in the future about feeling left out because of who they are.”

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