Recently, two high schools in Iowa City are being recognized for implementing new practices for homecoming. First is getting rid of any labels that can lead to students feeling excluded. Whether it be the nationally recognized titles of homecoming king and queen, or superlatives such as “most spirited” and “most athletic,” West High School Principal Gregg Shoultz tells Yahoo Lifestyle that these small adjustments are making way for bigger changes.
“In the past, the students voted for a king and queen, and they also voted for the most athletic male and female and the most talented male and female,” Shoultz says. “The students decided that neither gender nor the other categories served a meaningful purpose. In fact, by including gender, nonbinary students were being eliminated from consideration. By eliminating these traditional categories, students were free to nominate their classmates based on characteristics that were important to them.”
As a result, seniors nominated 24 classmates based on criteria of their choosing for the designation of “Hero of Troy,” a play on the school’s Trojan mascot. With the help of the junior class, six of the students were voted on and announced as the heroes of the class of 2019 at Saturday night’s dance.
The enthusiastic response to West High’s “modified” tradition then opened the doors for a similar homecoming court at Liberty High School — a newer school in the district, which already follows a set of core values.
“We have been working as a PBIS school,” Principal Scott Kibby tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “That stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. As part of our PBIS work, we developed core values,” some of which include belonging, leadership, and teamwork.
For Liberty High, there was no vision of what a homecoming court would even look like, allowing administrators to set a precedent of inclusivity and diversity, rather than changing a process already in place. Kibby says that the seven students chosen were “representative of our student population.” And with those seven, they didn’t feel the need to narrow the homecoming winners to two.
“We were proud of our leaders and left it at that,” Kibby says.
The Iowa City Community School District is now praising the efforts of not only the administrators of their schools, but also of the students.
“The change to a more inclusive, gender-neutral homecoming celebration at West and Liberty high schools was largely influenced by the students within those schools,” a spokesperson from the district tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They recognized an opportunity to alter long-standing school traditions in a way that was more inclusive and celebratory of all students.”
The spokesperson also says: “The focus was to find individuals who are making a difference, and the response has been incredibly positive. This change to the homecoming celebration supports the Iowa City Community School District’s overarching goal of equity and inclusion, and we are extremely proud of our students and staff for developing yet another way to stand by, support, and celebrate each and every unique individual within our district.”
The two high schools in Iowa aren’t the only ones making these changes. In early September, a high school in Michigan announced its initiative to get rid of homecoming titles and, instead, replace them with an excellence award.
Hopefully, the effort of these schools will create a new, more inclusive tradition for high schools across the country.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• Gay teen asks straight football captain to homecoming to show others ‘it’s OK to be themselves’
• ‘I worked so hard to be comfortable with myself’: Transgender student allowed to run for homecoming queen
• 7-year-old with an inoperable brain tumor is crowned honorary homecoming queen