Walt Whitman High School Suspends Selection of Homecoming King and Queen

Walt Whitman High School Suspends Selection of Homecoming King and Queen

Student government group cites inclusion in eliminating gender-specific accolades for weekend's festivities at Bethesda school

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A student's car is decorated for the senior class in Walt Whitman High School's parking lot during Homecoming spirit week.

Grace Toohey

Friday’s annual Homecoming pep rally at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda will have all the cheers, announcements and excitement per usual—but it won’t have the typical Homecoming king and queen reveal.

The school’s Student Government Association decided in early September to eliminate the Homecoming court tradition this year to ensure the school was inclusive to all students—no matter their gender identity. 

“At Whitman, the Homecoming court is never really a big deal, it’s not really instilled in our school culture,” said Student Body President Ari Gutman. “We decided that instead of having the court, we would just not have it at all, so no one was left out.”He said that the SGA worried the gender distinctions affiliated with the Homecoming court could make gender non-binary or transgender students uncomfortable.

Another local high school, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, announced last month it was moving to gender-neutral Homecoming royalty, instead of the traditional king and queen roles, to eliminate the role of gender in the recognition. The students elected to B-CC’s Homecoming court, which is also this coming weekend, could be two girls, two boys, a boy and girl or include transgender or gender non-binary students. The decision garnered national attention and discussion about the inclusion of transgender students.

Gutman said the discussions about the gender-specific accolades started during the past school year at Whitman, but the SGA chose to keep the tradition for one more year. But this fall, the student representatives decided early on to make a statement with their decision.

“There were so many changes around the county, we thought it would be better to focus on making our school more inclusive than [focusing on] an event no one really cares about,” Gutman said.

Principal Alan Goodwin said he welcomed the idea after the SGA representatives made their decision.

“One less stress on students,” Goodwin wrote in an email Wednesday. All other Homecoming activities will go on as they have in the past: the hallway decorating, Spirit Week, football game and the dance on Saturday night, Gutman said.

Gutman said when he heard about how B-CC decided to address this issue, he thought it was a good idea and something he could see happening in the future at Whitman.

“We were like, ‘We could have changed it,’ but deleting it altogether was the best decision for Whitman,” Gutman said. “I think if they ever bring it back it will be different [like B-CC].”

Gutman and Goodwin said they are working to implement a gender-neutral bathroom at Whitman, which Gutman plans to label only as a single restroom, not as ‘gender neutral,’ so students feel as comfortable as possible.

Eric Guerci, a B-CC student and student member of the Board of Education, said he commends his school’s efforts to promote inclusion and supports all initiatives for inclusion, but that the board would not get directly involved with decisions about Homecoming courts. 

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