MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – It took a federal lawsuit for two girlfriends whose classmates elected them to the Royalty Court to be allowed to walk together in the Royalty Court procession for the school’s Snow Days celebration. Champlin Park High School agreed to let the girls walk as a couple at a pep rally after the two seniors went to court.
The 18 year-old seniors, Desiree Shelton and Sarah Lindstrom, sued Anoka-Hennepin School District, Champlin Park High School, Principal Michael George and Superintendent Dennis Carlson for constitutional violations and sexual orientation discrimination after school officials tried to rearrange school traditions to prevent the girls from walking together.
One school administrator went so far as to speculate that because two boys would have to walk together if the two girls did, the boys “might then get bullied, commit suicide, and their parents would blame the school district.”
The teens say that they planned “to participate in the Pep Fest and Coronation process as a couple,” but that principal George “told them that the Royalty Court procession has been canceled and, instead, the assembly will begin with the Royalty Court seated on stage.”
The pep rally and Royalty Court procession are part of the school’s Snow Days Week, which runs from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5. “A Snow Days Week Royalty Court has existed at CPHS since the school was founded in 1992,” according to the complaint.
As part of the 5-minute Royalty Court ceremony, six boys and six girls in the senior class are elected “to serve as royalty,” and walk as couples through a decorated arch into the school’s fieldhouse.
The complaint states: “Historically, members of the Royalty Court were allowed to choose their processional partner if they had a particular preference. When the students do not have a preference, a CPHS staff member pairs up the students randomly as opposite-sex couples. When two students who are boyfriend and girlfriend are selected, it has been common practice to allow them to walk in the processional together.”
Shelton and Lindstrom say they campaigned to be on the Royal Court “to make a political and public statement about gender roles.”
After they were elected by their classmates, they planned to walk in the procession as a couple, and two boys on the royalty court volunteered to walk together, to even out the pairs.
But Shelton and Lindstrom say school officials told them they could not walk together “because it is a tradition for only a boy and girl to process in together, that it would make the two male students who volunteered to process in together uncomfortable even if they had already agreed to do so, that plaintiffs had been elected to the Royalty Court as individuals and not as a couple, and that it would make some students uncomfortable to see two women walking together as a couple.”
One school administrator claimed that the boys who agreed to walk together might face rumors that they are gay, and “they might then get bullied, commit suicide, and their parents would blame the school district,” the complaint states.
It adds: “Mr. George also stated that at a School Board meeting on January 24 a number of parents praised the school board for keeping the gays out of the schools and were otherwise hostile toward gays and lesbians.”
Last week, the school canceled the procession, and planned to seat the Royalty Court on a stage during the assembly.
But the high school and school district changed their institutional minds after the teens filed their lawsuit on Friday, according to local news reports.
The district agreed to “the same-gender pairing after a six-hour mediation session Saturday,” and the lawsuit will be dismissed, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.