River Flanary, 17, claims his rights were violated when school officials from McClintock High School told him he could not run for prom queen. Flanary designed his own dress for the prom, and states that in an effort to comply with the school dress code, he “jerry-rigged some rope to it [the dress] so that it’s not strapless.”
Although Flanary is a heterosexual male, he wanted to run for prom queen in order to support the LGBT community and to show his sympathy for the plight of gay, bisexual and transsexual students. When asked by reporters why he wanted to run for prom queen, Flanary said he wanted to “stand up for those who maybe weren’t bold enough to stand up before and maybe put that courage in their hearts a little.” By having a somewhat unorthodox platform, it was Flanary’s goal to inspire other students to follow his actions in the future if they so desired.
The Tempe Arizona School District states that it is “very careful about respecting students who have different sexual preferences but this is not one of those cases.” The District insists only female names can be written on the ballot for prom queen, and only male names can be written on the ballot for prom king. On the other hand, Flanary believes that the school district, by “denying him something because of his gender” is violating his constitutional rights. He is asking the school district to change the prom rules, so gender is no longer considered a factor and is removed from the ballots.
Despite the school’s tentativeness to allow Flanary to be prom queen, Flanary still wore the floor-length black dress to prom. Not surprisingly though, Flanary’s attempt to run for prom queen has elicited a variety of different responses from the student body. Abanoub Saad, a fellow student at McClintock High School, thinks that since “no other person has done it, it seems like he should be able to do it.” On the other hand, Serena Kaplan, another student at McClintock High School, said “he probably would have won if he wanted to be prom king. I just don’t see the point of him running for prom queen.” While Elijah Hall “commends Flanary for being brave enough to do it,” he doesn’t completely agree with him running for prom queen.
This isn’t the first time that a student’s challenge to the annual prom tradition has been met with resistance. A Georgia-based high school senior claimed he was forcibly removed from his position as Alpharetta High School’s Student President after he asked to eliminate the senior prom king and prom queen in favor of more gender-neutral titles as part of an effort to make the contest more favorable to the school’s LGBT students. School districts in both Maine and New York have allowed gay seniors to be crowned prom king and prom queen. If your institution has questions or concerns about this topic and you would like further information, please email Cynthia Augello at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 516.357.3753. A special thanks to Hayley Dryer, a third-year law student at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, for helping with this post.