By: Tom Duggan – May 25, 2016
The Valley Patriot has learned that Andover High School has changed their longstanding policy and tradition of crowning a king and queen of the prom, replacing them with what they are now calling the “prom court”.
The 2016 graduating class at Andover High had their prom two weeks ago, where two male students were crowned “prom court”, prompting parents to call The Valley Patriot newsroom with complaints.
Administrators in Andover took it upon themselves to change the handbook policies and did not notify, nor get the approval of the Andover School Committee, something that School Committeeman Ted Teichert says, just isn’t right.
“I didn’t know anything about this until I read about it on Facebook. Now it’s on the school committee agenda but, the prom already took place. So, I guess my first question is: why? Why did this happen? Was it because of all this transgender stuff going on at the national level? Was it because of a gender issue? How did this come about without school committee approval? Why weren’t we at least notified of the change? If they want to change a policy or anything in the student handbook they have to come before the school committee and they didn’t do that, they just went out on their own.”
“If this was a “gender issue” I would be concerned about other gender awards like ‘Mr. Andover High’ being changed”.
“I don’t care either way, but one of my questions will be, what’s wrong with King and Queen, one boy and one girl? What’s wrong with the long standing tradition in our high school? I’d be interested to hear who is responsible for this, and what was their reasoning. This has nothing to do with education so, why are we even doing this?”
PRINCIPAL ADMITS IT WAS HIS DECISION
Andover High School Principal Phil Conrad told The Valley Patriot Wednesday that he is asking for the school committee to change the policy at tomorrow night’s school committee meeting, admitting that it was his decision to change the policy this year.
“Because, we wanted to work within the spirit of law that Department of Education put in when the schools were asked to review their policies and procedures for gender separation and a review of the pedagogical reason for all gender decisions that are being made in the schools.”
Asked why the school committee is being asked to change the policy after the changes have already gone into affect, Conrad said that he was trying to get ahead of the policy changes being mandated by the Dep. of Education.
“We’ve been working all year on policies like this, and it must have just occurred out of order.”
Asked what happens if the school committee rejects the policy change given that they have already acted upon on it without school committee approval, Conrad said he is hoping that doesn’t happen.
“But, if it does, then we are going to have to have a broader discussion about why they rejected it and what the Department of Ed. is requiring of the district when it comes to gender and gender identity issues in the district.”
“Honelsty, the reason we are doing these things is to make sure that all students, and I do mean all our students, are being taken care of in school. It’s not to upset the apple cart so to speak, it’s to make sure all kids feel safe at school.”
Since Conrad cited the Department of Education requirements as a reason for changing the policy on king and queen of the prom, we asked him if that means all schools in Massachusetts will be changing their king and queen to be in compliance?
“No. I’m not saying that at all,” he replied.
Parents who contacted the Valley Patriot last week to complain about the change, said that they were afraid to be publicly identified in the story for fear that their children would be retaliated against at school.
Allison Thelen, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent told The Valley Patriot that changes to the student handbook are different than school committee policies, but added that “all changes to the student handbook have to be approved by the school council and the school committee the year before.” Adding, “I don’t know why that didn’t happen here.”
“All changes are approved by the school council, which is comprised of parents, and the high school administration, and then approved by the school committee, so this would have to have been approved last year, to have taken affect this year.”
One mother said that when she tried to complain to the high school administration she was called a bigot and told to “get over it”. Another parent said that she didn’t really mind the change but added, “the public should have been told, and the school committee should have approved it instead of secretly changing the policy and shoving it down the parent’s throats like they always do.”
“If the kids, the school committee, and the parents had a say in this, if they came to us first, I would probably be alright with the change if they could make a good case for it. But they never did that. They never do, and the school committee does nothing about it. They are useless.”