When I was in high school, the only teenagers elected to the homecoming court were the popular people, the best-looking people, and the star athletes. Today, high schools are making positive changes to homecoming king or queen standards. Teenagers who never would have won years ago are wearing homecoming crowns: racial minorities, young people with disabilities, and young people who are on the path to becoming valedictorian.
Here’s an example: at Cibola High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a student with autism was crowned homecoming king in 2008. This year, a student with Down syndrome wore the king’s crown. Yet, as the student body becomes more diverse, controversy erupts around the question: Are there any students who should not become homecoming king or queen?
That’s the battle going on right now at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Michigan. The student body clearly elected Oakleigh Reed as their homecoming king, but the school administration stripped him of his crown.
Because Oakleigh was born as a female. Oakleigh is a transgender teenager who is transitioning from female to male. Everyone in the school recognizes Oakleigh as a guy. All the teachers and students call him “he.” The administration lets him wear a tuxedo while marching with the band at football games, and the school officials have said he can wear the male cap and gown at commencement.
So who should really pick the homecoming king and queen? The students who vote? Or the school administration reacting to the vote?
Even though homecoming is only one event at the high school, it’s one of the few opportunities where young people get to vote and have their voices heard. When my kids vote for homecoming king and queen, I tell them that it’s important to take it seriously. Their vote matters. Just like every vote matters during primary and general elections.
It bothers me, however, when school officials step in and override the results of a vote. It reminds me of the countries where elections are rigged or corrupt. They make voters feel like they don’t have a voice.
I’m proud of teenagers when they elect the homecoming kings and queens that they truly believe in. I’m thrilled when those who are crowned are proud to wear the crown, like Betsy Daniel who was crowned Homecoming Queen at Chester Area High School in Chester, South Dakota, this fall.
Daniel’s classmates said she’s the perfect example of a homecoming queen: She’s a class leader. People admire her. She’s friendly. She’s always smiling. She works hard. She’s kind to everyone, and everyone loves her. Daniel also happens to have Down syndrome. What touched me the most about the crowning was that all the other queen candidates urged classmates to vote for Betsy Daniel because she deserved it more than they did. Afterward, a community member said, “The students at Chester not only have displayed beauty and grace, but they have challenged all of us to be better people.”
What do you think about who becomes high school homecoming king and queen?
Sarah Reinecke, “Homecoming Honor for Student with Down Syndrome Unites Town,” Argus Leader, September 17, 2010.
Jeremy S. Waltner, “Letters: A Display of Beauty, Grace,” Argus Leader, September 22, 2010.
Amy Graff, “School Robs Teen of Homecoming King Title,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 27, 2010.
Danielle Dupuy, “A Special Crowning of Homecoming Queen in Chester,” KDLT News, September 14, 2010.
Sarah Reinecke and Jeff Martin, “Special-Needs Students Reign on the Courts,” USA Today, September 30, 2010.
*Image via Flick’r: Annikaleigh