The roots of the senior prom date back to the 19th century, at a time when colleges were separated by gender. The prom—short for promenade—was an opportunity for young men and young ladies to meet and mingle at a formal party. The idea moved to younger ages in the 1920s and evolved into the modern-day prom, complete with tuxedos, limousines, over-the-top "promposals," and, of course, the infamous prom "court."
The fact that students are still being asked to vote among their peers for a "king" and a "queen" of the prom is somewhat baffling. The idea felt outdated when I was in high school decades ago. Am I missing something, or is it really just a glorified popularity contest where the naturally outgoing and beautiful among the student body get the privilege of winning a prize that has no real meaning or significance?
Traditions are odd things when you step back and look at them objectively. Many people aren't able to do that, which is why there's so often an uproar when traditions get broken or messed with in some way. But not all traditions are worth keeping—or at least worth being precious about.
That's the lesson for an Ohio community whose senior class voted in two girls as prom king and queen this year. The couple, Annie and Riley, were chosen by their peers at Kings High School to wear the crowns and carry the titles—a choice that was brought up and discussed at a local school board meeting.
At least one parent at the school board meeting expressed concern over having a girl serve as prom king, but others were supportive.
"I admire this generation for their thirst of knowledge and understanding, their strength to stand up for what they believe in," said one parent.
"Sorry, but I believe that there are still two genders, a male and a female," said another.
The decision, however, was the students' to make, not the parents'.
"This is solely a Kings High School senior class nominated and voted-on initiative," Dawn Goulding, a community relations coordinator for the school district, told WLKY News.
The school shared a photo of the girls on their Facebook page with no extra fanfare—just a simple message of congratulations. "Congratulations to Kings High School 2021 Prom King and Queen, Annie Wise and Riley Loudermilk! #KingsStrong." Though there was a mix of comments on the post at first, they grew more supportive.
"The queen and king that were nominated and won were thrilled, they were so excited and they feel so supported at school, Gould told Fox 19 News. "What is great is it shows a lot of the character of our students at Kings High School. They're inclusive and they get it."
The Facebook post now has more than 2,000 comments, most of which are words of celebration and support for the students.
Let's just step back a second. For parents to raise a fuss about a prom court in any way shape or form is just silly. "But a king is by definition a male! But the point is to have a boy and a girl!" It's a prom court, for the love. It means nothing in the big scheme of things, regardless of who wears those crowns.
The students of Kings High managed to at least give it some fleeting meaning, using an archaic prom tradition to make a statement of solidarity and an expression of inclusivity. And the school district has stood by the students as they've endured criticism from certain parents and community members.
The students have spoken, and what they've said is, "We're turning traditions on their heads and celebrating our friends just as they are." Seems like a fitting coming-of-age milestone for young adults heading into an increasingly diverse world.
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