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ACLU sends warning to Pa. school district on behalf of transgender student

Friday, April 26, 2013

RED LION, Pa. — The American Civil Liberties Union has sent a warning to a Pennsylvania school district on behalf of a transgender student who was denied the chance to run for prom king when his principal placed his female birth name in the column for prom queen, despite repeated requests to be listed under his correct gender identity.

As LGBTQ Nation reported Thursday, Issak Oliver Wolfe, who is openly transgender, said he had hoped to run for prom king at Red Lion Area Senior High School in Red Lion, Pa.

Issak Wolfe

After being assured by the prom committee and the prom’s faculty adviser that he would be listed on the ballot for prom king, principal Mark Shue decided to switch Issak’s name to his female birth name and list him as a candidate for prom queen instead.

According to Issak, Shue has since threatened to bar him from attending prom with his girlfriend, who is an alumnus of the school, after she posted statements and a petition online supporting Issak. The prom is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, April 27.

“I never had an issue with my school about accepting me for who I am, so I was shocked and humiliated when the ballots came out and they had me listed as the wrong gender,” said Issak, an 18-year-old senior.

“To do that with no warning, and then try to intimidate us into keeping quiet, is degrading and hurtful.”

Shue allegedly told Issak and his father William Stambaugh, that his decision to change the prom court ballot was based on “tradition” and he wasn’t comfortable putting Wolfe on the boys’ side of the ballot.

When Issak’s girlfriend, Taylor Thomas, posted a message on Facebook and created an online petition supporting him, Shue allegedly called Issak into his office and threatened to prevent him from bringing her to prom unless she changed the posts.

“Issak is accepted by his family, teachers, and peers for who he is,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

“He had no reason to expect to be treated differently by school officials, and Shue’s efforts to silence Issak and Taylor and suppress their First Amendment rights are completely inappropriate and unconstitutional.”

Issak is seeking an apology from Shue and a promise that future students will be allowed to run for prom king or queen in accordance with their gender identity as well as assurance that he will be able to attend the prom with his girlfriend.

The ACLU is also demanding that the school agree by Friday, May 3, that Issak will be able to attend graduation wearing a black cap and gown for boys, as opposed to the yellow cap and gown mandated for girls, and have his male name read at the ceremony.

Shue has previously declined to say whether or not Wolfe’s male name will be read at graduation, as he has repeatedly requested.

“Placing Issak on the ballot under ‘prom queen’ was a petty and mean-spirited decision that served no purpose other than to humiliate him in front of the rest of the school community,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project.

“Schools should be fostering an inclusive environment where all students are allowed to be themselves instead of needlessly making students feel stigmatized for being who they are,” said Block.

A copy of the ACLU letter, petition and Taylor’s Facebook post is here (PDF).

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13 more reader comments:

  1. I carry the card.

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 11:49am
  2. That principal is an IDIOT. How many parents and teachers have to do or explain things when they are not comfortable with the topic?? I hope that he loses his job. This is NOT they way to be teaching our children. PLUS, this is a very dangerous lesson being taught, if you are not comfortable with something only do what you feel comfortable with and to hell with everyone else.

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 12:01pm
  3. this sort of nonsense is infuriating.

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 12:06pm
  4. I realize this has little to do with this, but…….it’s kind of weird they have different colored gowns for males and females. I mean, in my high school…honors walked in white but everybody else was in red. As far as this young man is concerned, the principal needs to apologize and make things right. He wasn’t sorry until there was a backlash, hopefully he can learn from this and become the kind of Principal that has ALL of his students’ best interest in mind.

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 12:07pm
  5. “Placing Issak on the ballot under ‘prom queen’ was a petty and mean-spirited decision that served no purpose other than to humiliate him in front of the rest of the school community,” – True That! Shue is a spiteful hater!

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 12:16pm
  6. Sounds like a result of little dick syndrome, by principal Mark Shue.

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 12:18pm
  7. Remove the principal or terminate him from the school. Its about the students and their prom, not the principal’s personal beliefs or what he wants. The principal should be FIRED!!

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 1:25pm
  8. Its bullying!! However you look at it its bullying. The principal is the big bully here…

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 1:28pm
  9. What i want to know is: why does this principal still have his job?

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 1:35pm
  10. This is terrible. Prom is supposed to be such a fun night, a way to celebrate the closing of one chapter of life and the openning of another…why did the principal have to ruin that? :/

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 1:59pm
  11. Not only a hater, but Shue should feel humiliated himself to have his bigotry and narrow minded attitude exposed for all to see.

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 2:52pm
  12. I was thinking the same. If Shue did this on purpose, he just made an ass out of himself in front of his peers. There are diversity programs in place such as Safe Zone training and Ally centers. Clearly Shue needs to take one or more diversity courses, which by the way is now required in many universities for a bachelor’s degree in anything.

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 3:22pm
  13. This is sickening.

    Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 4:49pm