Amanda Claire Curcio, Democrat staff writer -March, 2016
Leon high-schoolers crowned a gay couple prom king and queen last month, a first in the school’s 185-year-old history.
To the two girls — Lindsey Creel and Brie Grimes, seniors who have been dating for three years — winning prom king and queen was not about the titles, but about helping others and raising awareness about LGBTQ issues.
“It feels good to know some of the things we’ve been a part of can help others going through tough experiences, in a positive way,” Brie said. “I needed someone in my life to show me that it would work out — when I was first going through this years ago. But I didn’t have that.”
“I hope that people will look at this and more will begin to think that it’s okay to be supportive of the LBTQ community,” Lindsey added. “Leon often talks about change… This is a good example for younger students there.”
In 2001, Leon’s Gay Straight Alliance was founded to foster understanding between LGBTQ students and straight students.
Initially, a few administrators tried to name GSA the “Tolerance Club” because they feared students would target its members — further proving the need for an alliance on campus, explained Scott Brown, a history teacher asked by a handful of students to sponsor the organization then.
This year’s selection of prom king and queen, however, demonstrates an evolving social consciousness, Brown said.
“It makes me feel proud to know that the majority of Leon students are open-minded and agree with today’s changing mores,” he said. “Leon may be a traditional school, but we can be known as progressive.”
Most other district schools did not immediately follow Leon’s lead. By 2015, only two other alliances were established, at PACE Center for Girls and Chiles High School. Lincoln’s GSA was introduced later.
And even with Leon’s strong GSA presence, the prom king and queen election still sparked some negative comments from alumni and others on social media.
Last March, members of Girls for Change, a program for teens created by the Oasis Center for Women and Girls, petitioned the School Board to support the opening of GSAs in the district.
Advocates shared personal stories about the pain that followed “coming out.” They also cited national studies that found LGBTQ students in schools with Gay Straight Alliances felt safer and were less likely to be bullied and had a reduced risk for suicide or depression. School Board members unanimously agreed to sign the resolution the following month.
Carlton DiSalvo, student body president and the School Board’s student representative, said the vote shows students can strike a balance between tradition and change.
“This is another step along that way of progression,” he said. “This says something about the friends and family of Leon and how they make the school what it really is. We can celebrate each other and our accomplishments, no matter our different viewpoints. We’re still able to come together as ‘Leon Lions.’”
paula’s opinion: I think the titles of king and queen need to be removed and perhaps the title of “The Royals” substituted. Personally, I can’t see why two people are singled out as special when it is everyone’s prom. These “King and Queen” titles are trivial and I’ve never seen a picture of “ordinary people.” The King is usually a jock, football hero and good looking. The Queen is…well mostly chosen for her looks. If both are academic then it’s a plus! In the case of this article, I have to add my admiration for the student body picking two lesbians. Well done!