Ashland High School, located in southern Oregon, has done away with its decades-long homecoming traditions in favor of making the experience more inclusive of transgender and gender-nonconforming students, reports the Associated Press.
Instead of crowning a "queen," "king," "princess," and "prince," the school's student body will now vote on a "Grizzly Court" of three seniors elected for their outstanding accomplishments.
The choice to make homecoming gender-neutral is presently an uncommon one, and has left the school's student government open to backlash and more media attention than anticipated.
Student body co-president Brielle Preskenis spoke to the Mail Tribune about not realizing how groundbreaking the change would be until she sat down to write the dialogue for an informational video, entitled "The Start of Something New," that appears on the school's website (and can be viewed below).
"I was sincerely like, 'Whoa, this is actually happening,'" she recalled in the Tribune. "This is a big deal."
"It used to be that anyone who was gender neutral or transgender was kind of left in this limbo ... and they couldn't identify," she continued. "So now it's open to everyone. Our ultimate goal is more inclusion, but it's also to change the discussion from being about gender to also being about making a positive impact on Ashland High School."
So far, Preskenis reports that the Ashland student body has been overwhelmingly supportive of the Grizzly Court, and the most pushback she and co-president Jackson Richmond have received has been via social media.
But, as Richmond explains in the video below, despite anticipating "controversy or strife," the decision came down to living in a world that "is constantly changing and improving."
"One of the things that we've been in the deliberations was trying to figure out if this decision was going to hurt anyone," Perkenis further explained to the Tribune. "Who would be the injured party if we made the change? And we really couldn't come up with anyone."
Watch Ashland High School students support "The Start of Something New" below.