Kasey Caron, a transgender student at Richland High School, was given no immediate answers at a Richland School Board meeting as to whether he would be allowed to run for Homecoming King, but one thing was made certain. The school board does not recognize the gender identity of transgender students.
On Monday evening, Kasey Caron and his supporters gathered to contest the school’s decision that he must run for Homecoming Queen, rather than King. While Kasey was initially told he would be allowed to run for court as a male, he was switched onto the female side of the ballot prior to the vote. Kasey was nominated onto the court, at which time the school administration deemed him a “special case,” and said that rather than be paired with another male on the court as his escort, he was to bring his own date. The school district initially claimed that they were required to force Kasey to run as a female, according to their legal counsel.
At the meeting, Kasey told his story of the difficulties he has faced in life as a transgender student, and how joyed he was to have a chance at being crowned homecoming king, with the support of his classmates. He cited the Pennsylvania Fair Opportunities Education Act in his defense, which prohibits stereotyping based upon gender in public institutions.
Kasey was told by the school board that no one was singling him out, but that the law defines gender. The school board then asked him to consider how he was impacting other students. At one point, school board solicitor, Tim Leventry, misgendered Kasey when his mother asked to speak, saying to her, “Who are you… is Kasey your daughter?”
Over a hundred people were in attendance, wearing blue in support of Kasey. Three of his peers, as well as commenters from the community spoke in favor of Kasey, without any opposition. Seamus Johnston, a transgender student activist, said, “The school board claims to not want to make Kasey a special case, but by forcing him to be on the female ballot, they are saying that some student’s gender identity is more important than others, because everyone has a gender identity, and they are not respecting Kasey’s.”
After being presented with a copy of Kasey’s driver’s license, which identifies him as male, the school board claimed that PennDot’s classification of gender was less strict than state law, and that only if his birth certificate was changed, would Kasey be legally male. When asked what specific laws prevented the school board from allowing an alleged female to run for homecoming king, school board solicitor, Tim Leventry, reportedly sighed, and replied “We’re not writing a legal brief here, no I don’t have those in front of me to cite to you.” When asked who their legal counsel was, the school board declined to answer.
The school board summed up the meeting by stating that there were “two sides to this issue.” They claimed that legally, Kasey is female, and therefore can be made to run on the court as a female. However, they also stated that in practicality, because Kasey has the support of his peers, school staff, and the community, the school board has the authority to overlook the legality, and grant Kasey permission to run as a male. They closed the issue by stating that, having heard the opinions of the community, they will conduct further investigation into the situation under advisement, and will announce their decision following the next convening of the board, which will be two weeks later, in a closed meeting.
Area leaders of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition were in attendance at the meeting. Faith Elmes, President of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Pride Alliance and Assistant Convener of PSEC, commented after the meeting that “While no student should ever have to face the challenge of their school district administration taking away their dignity, Kasey was fearless in directly countering their ignorance and bigotry.” The student coalition is joined by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and GLSEN Pittsburgh in closely monitoring this unfolding situation. PSEC youth leaders across the state stand in solidarity with Kasey, as he advocates for his school community to embrace equal access and inclusivity for students regardless of gender identity.