Pennsylvania: Homecoming King Booted from Ballot - Due to State Law on Gender?
Controversy erupted at the start of the 2013-14 school year in Johnstown, as Pennsylvania law allegedly forces an otherwise supportive Richland School District to deny a transgender male student’s place on the Homecoming Court ballot as King. Some of the student’s supporters argue that the school board is using state law as an excuse to deny him equality and respect.
High School senior Kasey Caron was excited when his peers at Johnstown’s Richland High School nominated him to be on the ballot for Homecoming Court. The school’s annual celebration takes place every October. According to The Advocate, Caron’s girlfriend told local news reporters, “‘He was so excited…Not only because people were accepting him, but he knew he had a good chance of being king, because of all the support he was getting.’”
Caron, a 17-year old drum major and honors student, was born biologically female but identifies as male. However, as a legal minor, he is prevented from completing a full legal and clinical transition to male until he turns 18.
School Guidance Counselor Missy Stringent asked Caron to choose which ballot he would prefer to be on – King or Queen. After choosing King, he said, “for three days I was so excited and then everything was shattered.” The school district declared that Caron was not legally male, and therefore could only appear on the ballot as Queen.
The district’s one concession to Caron was to not pair him by default with one of the other male students on the King ballot, as would be automatically done with other Queen nominees. In Caron’s case, the district said it would allow him to bring a date of his choice.
“I was trying to be OK with it,” Caron said of the district’s decision. “I left the office and as soon as I walked across the hallway to the guidance office, I started crying.”
Caron’s mother Kathy Caron and her partner Cindy Theys met with school officials and reached out to the school community to urge the school board to change its policy and permit Kasey back on the ballot as a King nominee. According to Caron, school administrators “were very apologetic. They were very sympathetic.” But no change was forthcoming.
In the meantime, Caron wrote an editorial for on-line and local news sources to explain his position with regard to the controversy:
“Friday [August 30th] I was called into the principal’s office…the principal and vice principal [said they] had removed my name from the male ballot and replaced it onto the female ballot. I was in shock, enraged, and disappointed. It felt like everything I had worked for had been destroyed…I’m going to fight this until I’m on the homecoming court as a male, and I’m officially running for homecoming king.”
According to the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, which has advocated for transgender students across the state, “more than 100 students and community members [were] in attendance” at a school board meeting to express support for the student and demand a change in the Richland School District’s position. The school board postponed its decision until later in September, in time for the Homecoming celebration on October 5.
 Sunnivie Brydum, “Trans Teen Takes on Pa. School to Run for Homecoming King,” Advocate.com, September 9, 2013, accessed September 12, 2013 at http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2013/09/09/trans-teen-takes-pa-school-run-homecoming-king.
 Danielle Krout, “Homecoming Controversy,”WeAreCentralPA.com, September 4, 2013, accessed September 12, 2013 at http://www.wearecentralpa.com/story/homecoming-controversy/d/story/_B8-LQPBn023KKNKJdALvQ.
 Eric Knopsnyder, “Homecoming Rule Stirs Transgender Debate at Pa. High School,” Newsandtribune.com, September, 4, 2013, accessed September 12, 2013 at http://newsandtribune.com/cnhinewsservice-all/x789521042/Homecoming-rule-stirs-transgender-debate-at-Pa-high-school.
 Kasey Caron, “Transgender Student's Editorial on Richland Homecoming Policy,” Tribune-democrat.com, September 4, 2013, accessed September 12, 2013 at http://tribune-democrat.com/x1253336636/Transgender-students-editorial-on-Richland-homecoming-policy.
 Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, “Associated Press Issues Trans-Insensitive Story on Kasey Caron,” Press Release, September 10, 2013, accessed September 12, 2013 at http://pennsec.org/associated-press-issues-trans-insensitive-story-on-kasey-caron/.