Indiana School Reverses Decision to Deadname Trans Teen at Graduation

·4 min read
Boonville High and graduation
Boonville High and graduation

A transgender student in Indiana participated in his high school graduation ceremony this weekend without being humiliated in front of the whole school. In a last-minute decision, the school district reversed a principal's previous decision to use the graduate’s deadname in favor of honoring the teenager's chosen name after receiving a public backlash.

News of the principal's original plan had gone viral, which eventually prompted the school district to overrule the school leader.

As The Advocate reported two weeks ago, Bradley Curry was facing the prospect of going across the Boonville High School graduation stage after the principal addressed him by a name he no longer recognized or skipping the day and maintaining his dignity instead.

Curry had recently announced on his Facebook page that he was considering not attending his high school graduation because the school principal was enforcing his anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans beliefs on the local community.

He explained that Boonville High School principal Michael Whitten warned the teen and his parents that he would not call Bradley by the name his family, teachers, and friends have called him since he was 12 years old.

People from all over the country were outraged by Curry's post and expressed their support and shock, anger, and disgust on social media.

"This is so sad," one user on Facebook wrote. "Keep fighting the good fight, and know that there are so many people who support you and all trans kids!"

Some people sided with the school principal, arguing that it was the responsibility of the schools to refer to students by their legal names.

That's not the case.

According to an informal survey conducted by IndyStar in 2018, many Indiana school districts acknowledge that they consider the needs of LGBTQ+ students on an individual basis rather than establishing a policy that applies to all.

Bradley Curry and his father, Jeremy Curry, had submitted an appeal to Todd Lambert, the Warrick County School Corporation superintendent, asking for him to overrule the principal.

In a previous interview with The Advocate, the elder Curry hoped that Lambert would recognize that his son had suffered unnecessary mental distress and that Lambert would accept the family's request to use Bradley's name.

Jeremy Curry said that Lambert told the family that he would look at Bradley's written request to have his name announced and he would get back to them.

On Friday, Jeremy Curry told The Advocate that the school had reversed its decision and that Bradley would attend graduation the following day without worrying whether the announcer would use his name.

"The school has agreed to meet our requests," the elder Curry said in a text message to The Advocate on Friday. "Graduation is tomorrow," he continued.

Jeremy Curry explained on Saturday afternoon that it took additional pressure from Lambert to enact the change.

"The school principal never gave us any information," he says. "It wasn't until I talked directly to the superintendent and told him of the reluctance of the principal to communicate that he called and notified us of the decision."

While Bradley's name wasn't correct in the program, Bradley's father says that the announcer called his name correctly.

"I can only assume that they were printed well prior to any decision that was made," he says. "I feel like this battle was unnecessary and brought attention to us that we didn't desire."

Jeremy Curry says that overall the day was good.

"We are proud [of him], and Bradley is excited to move on with the next stage of life," he says.

The family is in the process of legally changing Bradley's name, and then Bradley will attend college after taking some time off first, his father says.

"These past few years have been a learning experience for me, to say the least," Jeremy Curry says. "But my child is my child, and I will continue to love and support him and try to provide all the tools to be happy and successful."

Currently, conservatives are actively seeking the introduction of legislation nationwide that would restrict the right of LGBTQ+ teachers to talk about their lives or the lives of LGBTQ+ kids with their students.

There have been several recent incidents in which school officials have taken it upon themselves to impose their anti-LGBTQ+ values on the students they teach.

In a ruling announced last week, a Kansas judge held that a teacher is not required to use the child's preferred pronouns when addressing transgender students and is free to misgender them.

Jeremy Curry says that he stands by his son despite living in a very conservative area.

"I know this isn't the easiest road to travel in life, but I am with him,” he says.

The Advocate inquired with Whitten and Lambert to understand the original rationale for not using Bradley's name and the policy change, but neither responded to several requests.