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Rejected High Schooler Speaks

Rejected High Schooler Speaks

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When Kelsey Hicks turned 18, she followed in the footsteps of her father before her and left the house to live on her own, despite still being a student at Del City High School, just outside of Oklahoma City.

Hicks lives with her girlfriend and her girlfriend's 2-year-old child, she told The Advocate Tuesday evening. She said that because she holds down two jobs and shares child-rearing responsibilities, she decided to enroll in night school to complete her high school education but immediately didn't feel safe in her new surroundings.

"There are people who come, and they have ankle monitors on, and they talk about shooting up," she said. "Why should I be there if I constantly have to fear for my safety?"

After two weeks, Hicks decided to return to regular day school at Del City High, but when she approached John Benardello, the principal in charge of the senior class, she said he only put her down and said she should drop out due to her "unhealthy lifestyle." She was then told she could not return to school during the day. However, that would prevent her from following her dream and becoming a firefighter, which requires a minimum of a high school education.

Hicks said she is continuing with her education at a local trade school, where she is studying auto mechanics, but she still wants to graduate with a diploma from Del City. Hicks said the competition to become a firefighter in Oklahoma is intense, so a high school equivalency certificate, or GED, would not be enough to make her a strong candidate versus the many other prospective firefighters applying to fill a small number of positions.

Hicks conceded she has not been a model student and that she has faced disciplinary actions in the past. She also admitted that not all gay students who attend Del City High School face the same aggression she claims her principal displayed, but she said her situation is still not unique. Last week Hicks appeared in a KWTV News report with her friend Melissa McKenzie, who has since moved away from Del City. Hicks said both she and McKenzie were very open about being lesbians, and suspects they were simultaneously removed from the Del City girls' softball team because of it.

"Some people are glad about me actually telling my story, and some people are actually supporting me, but there are others bad-mouthing and talking crap," she said. "Oklahoma is not a gay state, so I know that not everyone is going to be OK with this. Everyone will say I'm downgrading Del City. But I'm not. If I were, I would just go to Mid City High School [in neighboring Midwest City] instead."

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