Michigan high school announces Excellence Award to replace homecoming queen
Students at a Michigan high school have decided that the tradition of naming a homecoming queen is “outdated” and hurtful because the competition led to bullying of girls.
So they’re dumping the crown.
Instead, at Chelsea High School’s homecoming game against Jackson High School on Friday, students from each grade will be presented with medals of excellence.
”I would make it equal for everyone, boys and girls could do it. And it’s not only the pretty girls,” said one female student in a YouTube video from the student council that explains the reasons for the change.
“We don’t want one of the biggest awards at our school to be associated with ‘pretty’ or ‘popular’ stereotypes or to be limited to a specific category of students,” student council president Drew Vanderspool wrote in a letter to families, according to MLive.com.
One student from each grade — boys and girls are eligible — will be presented with a medal of excellence at the game, Michigan Radio reported.
They will be chosen by their fellow students in voting this week based on attributes that aren’t supposed to have anything to do with popularity — such as academic achievement — according to the public radio network.
Voting for a homecoming queen didn’t mesh with the school’s #WhyYouMatter campaign started two years ago, student council faculty advisor Adam Schilt told Michigan Radio.
“(The excellence award) helps to shift what we value,” Schilt told MLive. “When you put a sash and a crown on someone, you are implicitly saying this person represents what we value at the school.”
Giving the Chelsea Excellence Award instead, Vanderspool told Michigan Radio, “we’re saying as a high school that we value kids with character and kindness and school spirit above that, and we allow kids to be who they want to be.”
In the student council’s video, student after student says why they wanted to get rid of homecoming queen in favor of “something you can be proud of winning, something you can put on your college applicaitons, your job resumes,” one boy said.
“I just didn’t like feeling like I was being put in competition with other girls in my grade,” said one girl.
“They do it for the completely wrong reasons, I think,” said one male student. “And they don’t do it based off of the best candidate, they do it based off of social status.”
Added a male teacher: “I just think it pigeonholes students and our community into gender-biased roles that aren’t necessary.”
Last year, the students said, a freshman girl was nominated for homecoming queen as an apparent prank, leaving a bad feeling among some of the students. That happens a lot, “everywhere,” said one girl in the video.
“It upsets me that students would take something that some people value and want, and make it somehow a joke or a punishment to that person, singling them out, especially when it’s someone who doesn’t realize that it’s a joke, and that is just cruel,” a female teacher said in the video.
Sophomore student council member Maddie Dunlap told MLive that while much of the response to the change has been positive, not everyone is happy. Girls who hoped to be homecoming queen are disappointed, she said.
The court of public opinion is divided as well.
“They should keep the tradition of crowning homecoming queens and have another ceremony for those receiving awards for excellence. Everyone getting so serious and sensitive these days. Homecoming is FUN!” wrote Judy Maurer Gardner on the Detroit Free Press Facebook page.
Schilt defended the student council’s move on his Facebook page where he noted how news of the change is spreading in the media.
“I feel the need to reply to the many sorry people angry with the decision who like to show their frustration by calling our students ‘snowflakes.’ Because those people are right,” he wrote.
“These young adults are one-of-a-kind; they do not conform to the pressure of anyone who demands that they maintain the status quo. They stick together, build on each other, and no matter how much you shovel, it’s going to be damn hard to stop them.”
Chelsea isn’t the only high school to make a move like this. Pinckney High School, also in Michigan, moved to a new homecoming format this school year that will have students vote on fellow students of “good character” for the homecoming court, according to WHMI radio.
The school’s student government said in a letter to school officials that homecoming shouldn’t be a popularity contest with the most popular couples winning, the radio station reported.
The homecoming queen has had a makeover at the college level, too.
Purdue University in Indiana ditched its traditional homecoming queen and king this year, replacing them with the gender-netural titles of “homecoming royalty,” the Indianapolis Star reported earlier this year.
Interest in being part of the school’s homecoming court has dropped off and the change will hopefully inspire new interest, Zane Reif, director of Purdue’s Memorial Union, said in a statement to the newspaper.
The new “homecoming royalty” will be introduced before Saturday’s homecoming game.
Penn State, the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota have all moved away from the homeconing “king” and “queen” titles, the Star reported.