School officials condemn hateful response to lesbian couple elected homecoming king, queen

Rebeca Arrellano, left, and Haileigh Adams

It’s easy — and, I think, common — for those of us who are a bit older to bemoan the state of our youth today. We gripe about their lack of respect, their lack of ambition, the way they dress, the music they listen to — the list goes on.

But news this week out of San Diego indicates that perhaps we old folks could learn a few lessons from the young’uns.

On Friday, Oct. 28, during their homecoming pep rally, students at Patrick Henry High School elected lesbian Rebeca Arellano as their  2011 homecoming king. Then on Saturday night, Oct. 29, at the homecoming dance, they named Rebeca’s girlfriend, Haileigh Adams, as their homecoming queen. Read that again: The two girls were elected by their classmates. And if you read the articles about the event, it looks like their classmates are, for the most part, satisfied with their choice.

But some of the older folks are not so happy. In fact, according to this article in the Los Angeles Times and the Fox 5 news report video you can watch below, some older folks are being downright hateful about it.

Officials with Patrick Henry High say they have been deluged with hate mail and hateful calls since news reports of Rebeca and Haileigh’s elections were published, and some of those comments and calls have been, they said, “disturbing.”

San Diego schools Supt. Bill Kowba told the LA Times that adults sending the hateful calls and letters are “demonstrating such a lack of tolerance and are presenting such a negative role model for children with their hateful comments.” He noted that if it were students behaving so badly, they would be disciplined, and then, after congratulating Rebeca and Haileigh, declared, “I look forward to the day when all students can come to school, free of harassment and bullying.”

Looks to me like there are a bunch of us “adults” out there who could stand to learn a lesson from the youngsters at Patrick Henry High.

—  admin

Mich. school’s policy change presents opportunity to revisit transgender homecoming issue in Dallas

Andy Moreno

Remember Andy Moreno, the transgender girl who was denied a chance to run for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School?

Well, not surprisingly, it turns out that North Dallas isn’t the only school in the country that’s had to deal with this issue. But unlike NDHS or DISD, schools in other districts appear to be learning from their mistakes and drafting policies to avoid a repeat of the problem. For example, the NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich., reported Monday that students at Mona Shores High School will henceforth select a gender-neutral homecoming court:

The change comes about five months after a transgender student wasn’t allowed to run for homecoming king at Mona Shores.

Oakleigh Reed is registered at the school as a girl, but plans to undergo a sex change upon turning 18. Reed identifies as a boy, and students and teachers at Mona Shores recognize Oak that way, as well.

Reed was disqualified from running for homecoming king in September. Since last fall, school officials have been trying to figure out a way to avoid a similar situation from happening again.

The solution?

The juniors and seniors will vote on a gender-neutral prom court this spring. The policy will stand for future homecoming events, as well. There will be two juniors and two seniors on the courts; the sex of the students won’t be considered.

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

We’ve contacted Jon Dahlander, a spokesman for the Dallas Independent School District, to find out whether there have been any further discussions about this issue since the Andy Moreno controversy in October. We’ve also left a message with Dinnah Escanilla, the principal at North Dallas High School who told Moreno she couldn’t run for queen because she was born a boy — a decision that the district stood behind.

We’ll let you know what we find out.


—  John Wright

WATCH: N. Dallas High School doesn’t want you to know if trans student won homecoming vote

North Dallas High School isn’t releasing the results of the vote for homecoming queen, saying the information is confidential. So we have no way of knowing for sure whether transgender student Andy Moreno had enough votes to be a finalist for homecoming queen. But Andy’s running mate on the ballot, her MTF transgender friend, is one of three finalists for homecoming king. So it’s likely that Andy was also one of the top three vote-getters, but Principal Dinnah Escanilla is stubbornly sticking to her terrible decision not to allow Andy to run for queen. What’s worse, the Dallas Independent School District continues to allow Escanilla’s blatant discrimination, making us wonder what would happen if the principal required the homecoming queen to be of a certain race.

Fox 4 has been following this story closely, and it’s been the No. 1 most read article on their site both last week and today. But why does Fox 4 reporter Sophia Reza suddenly begin referring to Andy as a “he” and “him” halfway through her report, almost as though she’s mimicking students who do the same thing? And why does anchor Heather Hays seem to have such a hard time understanding the simple fact that Andy identifies as a girl, not a boy?

Andy, who has a new hair-do and looks stunningly beautiful in the interview, says she plans to talk to the principal about the homecoming vote, but as of now, she has no plans to sue despite being approached by some lawyers. She’ll be attending the homecoming dance in a dress and heels this weekend, which Hays also seems worried about. Hays asks whether the school has a dress code — such as one prohibiting low-cut dresses — that would also bar Andy from wearing a dress at all.

“Well then they should have less of a problem with me coming in a low-cut dress, because I’m sorry, but what’s going to pop out of my top?” Moreno responds.

You’ve gotta absolutely love this girl.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Transgender girl not a finalist for homecoming queen despite enough votes

SISTERLY SUPPORT | Andy Moreno, left, has her family — including sister Daisy Moreno, right — and her friends backing her up in her bid to be the 2010 homecoming queen at North Dallas High. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)
Andy Moreno, left, and her sister Daisy Moreno

Trangender student Andy Moreno wasn’t among the three finalists for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School announced Monday, according to her sister, Daisy Moreno.

Daisy Moreno told Instant Tea that according to poll watchers and friends on the counting committee, Andy received more votes than at least one of the three finalists. However, based on the principal’s previous decision, school officials didn’t allow votes for Andy to count.

Another transgender youth who also identifies as female was nominated for homecoming king and won, Daisy Moreno said. The school allowed the other youth to run for king because she was born male. Students will choose the homecoming king and queen from among the finalists on Friday, Oct. 15.

Queer LiberAction is reportedly planning a protest of Andy’s exclusion from the ballot.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company saw the story about Andy’s homecoming bid on Dallas Voice’s website and interviewed her Monday afternoon. The report is scheduled to run on NPR in the United States.

It’s unclear whether Andy would have a winning case if she brought legal action against the school or the district, according to Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal in Dallas.

Upton said recent federal court rulings have supported students’ right to dress consistently with their gender identity in other contexts, but he couldn’t recall one that dealt specifically with homecoming. In Indiana, for example, a school district recently changed its policies and settled a case brought by a trans student who wasn’t allowed to wear female attire to the prom.

“In this type of a situation, there would probably be some federal arguments you could make,” Upton said. “It would depend a lot on the circumstances of the homecoming event, and whether it was truly just extracurricular or whether it was related to the curriculum of the school. But as a general rule, the federal law has been in some cases protective of students who kind of buck the gender norms or bend the molds and administrators don’t like it.

“I think it’s something we’re seeing more and more of, because students are increasingly becoming comfortable in their own skin in situations where five or 10 years ago, they would have been scared to death to be themselves,” he said.

Upton added that regardless of the legal implications, he doesn’t understand the school’s motivation.

“What’s the harm?” Upton said. “Especially in the context of proms or homecoming, I always wonder, what really is the objection? And that’s the question that I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer to. You [the school district] might win a lawsuit, but why would you care, and why would you expend so much energy on something like this? You’ve got bigger problems.”

Online editor John Wright contributed to this article.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: N. Dallas High School bars transgender girl from running for homecoming queen

A male-to-female transgender student at North Dallas High School says the school’s principal is discriminating against her by barring her from running for homecoming queen, according to a report that aired Wednesday night on Fox 4.

Andy Moreno, an 18-year-old senior, told the station that some friends nominated her for homecoming queen. However, a few days ago, a counselor warned Moreno that some school administrators were opposed to the idea. Moreno says she went to talk to the principal, who told her to run for homecoming king instead.

The Dallas Independent School District says it has no formal policy on the issue, but DISD issued a statement saying: “The district fully supports the decision of the principal at North Dallas High School. It should be noted that the Dallas Independent School District is proud to have one of the most aggressive anti-harassment policies among school districts in the state of Texas.”

Moreno says she doesn’t feel comfortable running for homecoming king because she identifies as a female, and her friends support her.

“I do feel like I’m being harassed and I feel like I’m being discriminated against,” Moreno told Fox 4. “I feel like the principal is embarrassed to have a transgender queen.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea and Dallas Voice for more on the story.

—  John Wright

A glimpse of the change to come: School officials yank trans teen’s homecoming king crown

The San Francisco Chronicle posted a story online today about Oakleigh Reed, a transgender 17-year-old at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Mich., who was voted homecoming king by his classmates after he launched a Facebook campaign for the crown. But then school officials yanked Oak’s crown, declaring that students can only choose a boy for homecoming kind, and Oak — as he is known to his friends — is not a boy.

Oak has been coming to terms with his gender identity for some time, and his classmates and teachers and family have apparently been coming to terms along with him. His teachers refer to Oak with male pronouns in class. The school allows him to wear a tuxedo when he marches with the band. And he has been given permission to wear the male cap and gown at graduation.

But because he is “still enrolled as a female” at the high school, Oak can’t be homecoming king, school officials declared.

Another homecoming king has already been crowned. But Oak’s classmates, angry that their votes were ignored, have taken to Facebook to protest with a page called “Oak is Our King.” And they are encouraging everyone to wear T-shirts bearing that slogan to school on Friday, Oct. 1. The Chronicle says that the ACLU is considering taking on the case.

Now, I figure there are two ways to look at this, and I guess when it comes right down to it, you can see it both ways at once. First of all — and this was my first reaction — is to be angry at school administrators who completely discounted the choice of the majority of the students who wanted to honor their friend Oak by naming him homecoming king. We could see it as just another example of the way LGBT people, especially LGBT youth, are mistreated by a bigoted society.

That’s all true, of course. But look again and you can see a very bright silver lining to this cloud: The fact that the students voted a transgender teen as homecoming king. If that’s not progress, what is?

There will come a day when the “old guard” — the ones that take away homecoming king crowns and refuse to letLGBT students take their same-gender dates to the prom and insist they dress according to outdated gender stereotypes — will be gone and this younger, more open-minded and accepting generation will be in charge. And maybe when that happens, the young people of that day will stand aghast at the idea that same-sex couples weren’t allowed to get married, that gays and lesbians couldn’t serve openly in the military, that transgenders were ridiculed just for trying to be themselves.

I’m not saying we should stop fighting for those things now and wait for the inevitable change. I  know I don’t have that much patience, and I am sure most of you don’t either.  But I do think we can take heart in knowing that change is coming. Whether the bigots like it or not.

—  admin