A high school in Madison, WI, is making headlines for their homecoming court, and it's not because of who they elected as king and queen — it's because they didn't.
Madison West High School decided to start a new tradition: having a gender-neutral homecoming court. Instead of crowning a king and queen at the end of the night, the school is attempting to gender-neutralize the long-standing ritual. "It won't be separated by male, female. It'll simply be the top 20 students, in the senior class, that their classmates thought represented who we were as a school," Principal Beth Thompson told NBC affiliate WMTV.
The new policy gained momentum last year after the school's Gay Straight Alliance group proposed the idea to the school administration. Thompson received a petition that was signed by almost 1,000 students and faculty members who wanted a more inclusive way to choose the homecoming, prom, and mid-Winter dance courts.
"My hope is that students who are not feeling included and valued now really feel like they have a place at the table," Thompson explained to TODAY Parents. "And my hope is that the selection process is really nominating kids who are representing what we value here and the diversity of our school so that it really can be a school-wide celebration."
By having students vote on the top 10 men and women who fit the idea of a "king" and "queen," the school felt it made things uncomfortable for students who are gender fluid or identify as a different gender. Instead, 20 seniors will now be voted on based on how they represent the school's values. The two finalists — no matter their gender — will be named the "regent royalty."
"King and queen is confining to a lot of people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or anything I mean, right? I wouldn't want to be called queen myself," said West High Dean of Students Ellen Pryor.