ANDOVER, Mass. – Andover High School officials are blaming a state “law” on transgender issues in schools as the reasoning behind a unilateral move to eliminate gender specific prom titles without consulting students, parents or the district school committee.
“I didn’t know anything about it until I read about it on Facebook,” Andover School Committee member Ted Teichert told the Valley Patriot. “Now it’s on the school committee agenda, but the prom already took place. So, I guess my first question is: Why? Why did this happen? Was it because of all the transgender stuff going on at the national level?
“Was it because of a gender issue? How did this come about without committee approval?” he questioned. “Why weren’t we at least notified of the change? If they want to change a policy or anything in the student handbook they have to come before the school committee and they didn’t do that, they just went out on their own.”
Andover High School Principal Phil Conrad told the news site he decided to change the school policy to align with recent guidance on gender non-discrimination issued by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“Because, we wanted to work within the spirit of the law that Department of Education put in when the schools were asked to review their policies and procedures for gender separation and a review of the pedagogical reason for all gender decisions that are being made in the schools,” he said.
Conrad alleges school officials must have mistakenly changed the policy before getting proper approval from the school committee, and are now seeking approval to make it official.
School officials eliminated the gender specific titles for the high school’s prom May 14, and instead of asking students to vote for a prom king and queen, they simply took the top to vote getters –regardless of gender- and put a crown on them.
Junior Jules Tiechert told the Eagle-Tribune students were given a list of ten names and asked to vote for two. Tiechert alleges students were not consulted about removing gender-specific prom titles, and many were not happy with the move.
“We were told that we could no longer – absolutely not at all – have a king and a queen,” Teichert said. “I’m not against new ideas and I’m not against changing the policy. I just wanted to know why we couldn’t have a king and a queen.”
“They’re not getting the whole perspective of the 450 plus kids in our grade, which is concerning to me because it wasn’t a reflection of what the junior class wanted,” Teichert said. “We’ve been somewhat of a guinea pig class and have had a lot of changes happen in our grade. I feel like this should really be a student decision rather than all of a sudden just going ahead with it.”
School officials told the Eagle-Tribune that the gender-neutral prom court is one of several changes at the school this year to accommodate transgender students and comply with directives from the state education department.
“The junior (prom) board and junior (prom) advisers talked about the need to be gender neutral according to the Department of Education,” Conrad said. “They decided that we would go away from having a gender-based king and queen, because it doesn’t really have a pedagogical reason.”
High school officials are also working to install gender-neutral bathrooms on high school campuses, eliminated gender-specific superlatives for seniors in the 2016 yearbook, officials said.
School committee member seem to be on board with the changes, even though they were not consulted beforehand. School committee chairman Joel Blumstein equated the issue to slavery when he spoke with the Eagle-Tribune.
“Frankly, when it comes to issues like this of civil rights, it is not a question of taking a survey and the majority wins,” the chairman said. “We’d probably still have slavery if it was up to the majority at the time.”