West High School in Madison, Wisconsin, will crown its homecoming court as usual Friday. But this year, it'll break with tradition by not naming a king and a queen. School administrators have moved to a gender-neutral homecoming court, called the "Regent Royalty," as a result of a successful student body petition to make the process more inclusive, the Guardian reported.
Instead of a boy student being automatically declared king and a girl student queen, the top two people who receive the most votes from their peers can call themselves whatever they want. The royal couple, therefore, could be same-sex or even off the binary gender spectrum.
"My hope is that students who are not feeling included and valued now really feel like they have a place at the table," principal Beth Thompson told a "Today Show" blogger. "And my hope is that the selection process is really nominating kids who are representing what we value here and the diversity of our school so that it really can be a school-wide celebration."
The movement began this past spring when the school's Gay-Straight Alliance presented the principal with a petition demanding a gender-neutral court for homecoming, prom and other dances. About half of the 2,000-person student body signed it, and the administrators enacted the new policy this fall. "For a small subset of students, it's a really powerful change and validates, in a way, their existence," senior Kate Scholz told local NBC affiliate WMTV.
West High wasn't the first institution to do away with gender-specific customs. Earlier this month, the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire decided to use the title "royalty" rather than "king and queen" for its homecoming pageant, and Ashland High School in Oregon made the same transition last September. One of the most prominent -- and earliest -- cases was at Mona Shores High School in Michigan, which went gender-neutral in 2011 after receiving national attention for refusing to recognize a transgender student homecoming king.