Minnesota high school won’t have homecoming king and queen in the name of ‘inclusion’

Students at Brainerd High School want a king and queen, but their apparently progressive principal says abolishing this practice helps students "think outside the box" about gender.

Principal Andrea Rusk speaks to her school board as a man wearing a grocery bag over his head looks on from the audience. (YouTube/ Brainerd Public Schools)
Principal Andrea Rusk speaks to her school board as a man wearing a grocery bag over his head looks on from the audience. (YouTube/Brainerd Public Schools)

Brainerd High School will not have a homecoming king and queen in the name of inclusivity, much to the disappointment of its student body.

In 2020 Brainerd didn’t have homecoming at all due to the coronavirus pandemic. The school also “went away from a king and queen last year” in favor of electing gender-neutral “ambassadors,” Principal Andrea Rusk said at a recent school board meeting.

Rusk said the decision of whether or not to have a traditional homecoming court this year fell upon the student government, which she said “did not reach a consensus,” even though she also conceded that “a majority [of students] would like to see a return to a traditional [homecoming court].”

Avery Mulholland, a Brainard High School student, apparently contests the principal’s assertion that the students were allowed to make their own homecoming plans. She said that the student body wanted to have a traditional homecoming court with just two spots that would be open to men, women or “nonbinary” people, but the school had them abandon this structure.

“Instead of having a court, they wanted to scrap the idea completely and replace it with something called the ‘Above and Beyond Award,'” she told local media.

“Homecoming court is a tradition and it’s disappointing to see our traditions taken away without really proper reasoning,” Mulholland added. She is not alone in her disappointment.

“I don’t know why [unintelligible] we have to take that also away from our students,” a board member said to Rusk. “When a senior comes to school this year looking for normality and you have this, it seems like a little rug pulled out from under them.”

The principal responded to this concern by illustrating how her own beliefs about gender have evolved: “The lens for me started with maybe a gender lens in the sense of just having that come to my attention, but then it moved a little bit into more of a cultural history lens too.” She also noted that she wants to “challenge students to think outside the box.”

The goal is to create “a celebration and a recognition of students, especially seniors, that is inclusive and it would not maybe have anybody feel excluded,” she added.

Meanwhile, a group purporting to be composed of Brainerd High School students has circulated an online petition to restore the homecoming king and queen.

“The tradition of homecoming court at Brainerd High School has been canceled and replaced,” the petition reads. “Instead of traditional king and queen, an Above and Beyond recognition will be awarded. Although this is a great award, it should not replace our homecoming king and queen.”

The petition has garnered nearly 2,500 signatures and a handful of comments.

“I want our school to be normal,” student Eli Wiskow wrote.