Tremper High School – located in Kenosha, WI – is refusing to let one student run for Prom King because of his transgender identity. Ash Whitaker, a junior at Tremper, says the high school also does not respect his gender identity or allow him to use the correct bathroom while at school.
In an email, he told Fresh U: "The principal and an assistant principal, who are also receiving a directive from the ESC (administration offices of the district), told me I was not allowed to run for prom king. I have had numerous meetings with them to see if they would change their minds. This was not the first time I was discriminated [against] because of my sex. They offered the female restroom or the staff bathroom which is buried in the main office, but is nowhere near any of my classes. It could take up to 15 minutes just to go and use the restroom and come back."
On Sunday, April 3, Ash received an email from the school administration saying that they would not budge on their decision to not allow him to run for Prom King. Because of this, Ash created a petition against the decision and the ongoing discrimination.
The petition on Moveon.Org states: "I am trying to run for Prom King at my school, but am unable to due to my school's resistance and insistent discrimination against my transgender identity (FtM). In addition to this, I am unable to use the male restroom or receive respectful identification from said administration."
It has already been signed over 1,500 times at the time of this article's publication. There has also been an outpouring of support on social media.
A number of Tremper High School alumni have also rightfully voiced their outrage over the school's decision.
At the time of this article's publication, Tremper High School has still not changed their mind on their decision. Students are planning a sit-in at the high school's main office on Tuesday, April 5 to protest the school's policy.
But for Ash, the petition is about more than just being able to run for prom king.
"It is not about the Prom King court itself, it is not about the bathroom usage itself, it is the concept behind it. I am not being treated on an equal level with other teenage boys who attend the school..."
"...It also upsets me because there are only a few people that have come forward with their disagreement with my gender identity, but they also are the people in charge. They tell me they are following procedure, but there was no procedure for my "situation". They are now creating a policy, but it will be based off of their own bias if I do not intervene in any way I can."
But of the overwhelming support Ash has received, he told Fresh U:
"It gives me hope for the current and following generations of transgender students, because I believe that this has opened a door. It is a step forward to a more positive and welcoming educational environment."
*Fresh U reached out to Tremper High School for comment, but received no answer by the time this article was published. Fresh U will update this article if any statements are received.*
UPDATE: April 6, 7:25 a.m. ET
A rally took place at Tremper High School on April 5 to protest the school's decision to not allow Ash to run for Prom King. According to the Kenosha News, around 70 supporters showed up to the administrative office and then moved to protest outside of the school. The school has not yet altered their decision to allow Ash to run for Prom King.
A spokesperson for Kenosha Unified school District, Tanya Ruder, told Kenosha News that, “At this time we’re looking into everything at the district level. We’re taking it very seriously.”
She goes on to say that the district previously had no policy regarding transgender students and their participation in prom. “This is new for us, which is why we are having to do so much investigating and looking into things."
The petition to allow Ash to run for prom king has now garnered more than 4,700 signatures.
UPDATE: April 6, 7:32 p.m. ET
According to this Facebook status, the administration has changed their mind and Ash is allowed to run for Prom King, but will still fight for completely equal rights.