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Teen to Skip Graduation After Principal Insists on Deadnaming Him

Boonville High School

Bradley Curry's has been respected by teachers and students throughout high school but his principal is standing between him and walking across the stage.


A high school senior in southwestern Indiana who will graduate in less than three weeks is considering skipping his commencement ceremony to protect his dignity.

Instead of looking forward to the rite of passage, Bradley Curry's disagreement with Boonville High School administrators has consumed the teenager's last weeks of school.

The 18-year-old transmasculine student alleges that the principal, Mike Whitten, indicated he will call the student's deadname and not their chosen name at the ceremony, this as a reversal of what Curry has been referred to by school staff and classmates for the past few years.

"I have been out since I was 12 years old and have been going by Bradley since then," Curry wrote on Facebook Wednesday. "All of my teachers and classmates call [me] Bradley. I am now a senior and will be graduating in about 2 weeks. It seems as though, sadly, I will be unable to attend graduation simply because of the principal's personal feelings against referring to trans people by their names."

He explains that along with advocating for himself, his parents have been calling and writing to school officials to work out an acceptable solution, to no avail.

"[T]he principal still refuses to call me Bradley because of his own personal biases. I was always under the impression that the teachers and staff are supposed to make sure every student there has a safe learning environment and feels comfortable coming to school. Well, at Boonville, that is just [simply] not it."

He concludes, "I want everyone to keep in mind that there is no school board policy saying that he has to call a transgender student by their dead name while walking across the stage to receive their diploma."

Bradley's father, Jeremy Curry, tells The Advocate that all his family is asking is for Bradley to be announced by his name when walking across the stage.

Jeremy Curry says he had a conversation with Dr. Todd Lambert, the Warrick County School Corporation superintendent. Boonville High School is within the school corporation's jurisdiction.

"He said they were currently working on a policy that would address this issue, and the plan was to implement it next year," the elder Curry says. "I told him that [them] working on it was good, but my main concern is this year."

He adds that Lambert seemed receptive to hearing the Currys' concern.

"[Lambert] stated that he is having a meeting with all the principals on Monday and will be discussing the situation. He will then let me know the outcome. I await hearing the outcome of his meeting, but graduation is fast approaching."

Jeremy Curry says that while he will wait for the results of Monday's meeting, he is considering other avenues of recourse, including legal action, if the decision does not come back in Bradley's favor.

The Advocate reached out to Lambert and Whitten for clarification on the school policy that dictates which names staff announce during graduation ceremonies but did not receive a response to several messages.

Lambert has a track record of advocating for marginalized students. In his previous position as interim superintendent of Poudre School District in northern Colorado, he appeared in a video saying he would not tolerate discrimination based on a student's identity.

Before that, as assistant superintendent of elementary schools, Lambert signed on to a pledge committing the district to equity and inclusion for all students.

Indiana is among the states with Republican-led legislatures recently increasingly hostile toward LGBTQ+ Americans.

The Advocate previously reported that Indiana's Republican Governor Eric Holcomb bucked his party when he vetoed a law passed by the legislature in March that attacked transgender student-athletes.

Indiana lawmakers can override the veto with a simple majority in the state House and Senate beginning May 24.

Last Friday, an Indiana court ruled that a school had to open its bathrooms to students in line with their gender identity.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ordered John R. Wooden Middle School to give a transgender boy access to the school's bathroom facilities while the case proceeds.

"The overwhelming majority of federal courts - including the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit - have recently examined transgender education-discrimination claims under Title IX and concluded that preventing a transgender student from using a school restroom consistent with the student's gender identity violates Title IX," Welton Pratt wrote Friday. "This Court concurs."

Walton Pratt is the Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

ACLU of Indiana Attorney Stevie Pactor warned legislators and school administrators. In a statement, he urged them to "take notice."

This incident is the latest in several occurrences nationally where public school staff members have purposely misgendered students.

Last week, The Advocate reported on a teacher in South Dakota who refused to call transgender students by their names and sent a bigoted letter home with the upset 14 and 15-year-olds.

According to a spokesperson for Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, parents concerned about discrimination in their child's school may complain to the department's Office for Civil Rights.

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