This year, Chelsea High School is trading in a homecoming queen's crown for medals of honor.
The school’s student council made the decision to nix their tradition of crowning a homecoming queen. Instead, students will vote on someone of any gender in each grade to be presented with an excellence award — and a medal — at the homecoming football game.
Maddie Dunlap, a sophomore and the student council’s public relations chairperson, said the tradition of choosing homecoming royalty had led to bullying and hurt feelings in the past. Girls were getting nominated without knowing it, and Dunlap said some girls were being nominated as a joke.
When it happened to a fellow freshman last year, Dunlap said a lot of people in her grade were disgusted. So this summer, student council decided to make a change.
“Student council’s job is to make CHS a safe place for everyone, and when this award is used for bullying purposes in some cases, that really isn’t making that safe place,” Dunlap said.
But the council didn’t want to get rid of the tradition entirely, which is why students will still vote on someone in each grade to win an award. The new award, however, will celebrate academic, social, and emotional attributes.
CHS student council faculty advisor Adam Schilt said the old homecoming tradition clashed with the school’s #WhyYouMatter campaign, which was started by art teachers two years ago after the deaths of multiple CHS students.
“They got together with a group of students and they said, ‘We want to make sure our school does something that focuses on the inherent value of every person.’”
Student council president Drew Vanderspool said the new award better encompasses those #WhyYouMatter values.
“Previously with the homecoming queen award, we thought that it was saying that as a school we really valued the kids that were the prettiest or the most popular,” Vanderspool said, “and we think that by changing the idea behind the award into the Chelsea Excellence Award, we’re saying as a high school that we value kids with character and kindness and school spirit above that, and we allow kids to be who they want to be without being judged or without feeling like they have to fit into certain categories here at CHS.”
Dunlap said the council decided unanimously to change the award. But she has heard complaints from some of her classmates.
“Nobody really has a good reason why they want it to stay the same. We think as a student council, the negative feedback is not even close to outweighing the positivity that this award will spread,” Dunlap said.
The student council has not yet decided if they’re going to change their tradition of crowning a Winter Carnival King and a prom king and queen.