Last week, students in Palo Cerda, California, protested their high school administration’s refusal to allow a lesbian couple to be prom king and queen. Following a petition from students and a letter from the ACLU, the school reversed its position and announced Wednesday that it would allow students to run for prom royalty regardless of gender.
The trouble began in late April, when Foothill High School students Hayley Lack and her girlfriend, Jenna, were nominated for prom royalty by their peers. Administrators then said that the students would not be allowed to run as a couple. On April 27, Lack posted on Facebook,
For prom royalty, me and my girlfriend were nominated as a couple. We were nominated alongside two other straight couples. Now, admin has decided that since a lesbian couple was nominated, they won't allow couples unless it's a boy and a girl. This is blatant discrimination and I won't stand for it anymore.
In an interview with Mic, Principal Jim Bartow explained the school’s policy: “They [the girls] are both able to run separately, but we don't nominate as couples. It's not fair to the boy gender.”
Students at Foothill High School and two neighboring high schools protested the move by starting a petition called, “Petition for Equality for Same Sex Couples at Foothill High School.” Megan Cowee, a student at a school in the same district, told Cosmopolitan, “[I]t's the right for the students to be able to vote for whoever they want their prom king and queen to be no matter the gender. Even though we're young, it doesn't mean we don't know what we're doing.”
Lack also enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gill sent a letter to the school, in which she argued, “To prohibit same sex couples from engaging in an activity regularly allowed different-sex couples is discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
The school ultimately created a new policy, described in a letter obtained by ABC, which states,
If an individual receives enough votes, they will be a candidate for the prom royalty position, regardless of their gender or the gender of their prom date. … This selection process does not discriminate or classify students on the basis of their gender or sexual orientation, but instead provides a neutral method to select a prom kind and a prom queen.
Lack and her partner won’t find out if they’ve won the titles of prom royalty until the votes come in, but getting their school to change its policy is a victory of its own. “We were planning to not only change it for us, but for future LGBT kids, and that's what we are so excited about,” Lack told ABC.
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