The SGA Executive board voted almost unanimously to make the change from the traditional king-queen, prince-princess style court to a whole new style including four students from each grade, opening up the Homecoming Court to a whole new array of students.
Atholton is one of the first schools in Howard County to change the Homecoming Court in this way. Mr. Stuppy, advisor to the SGA Executive board, created this new layout for the court so that this tradition can be more inclusive and mean more to the student body.
“It’s not about making it gender neutral and it’s not about changing the world or anything like that. It’s about making it a more inclusive opportunity, something that is reflective of our changing student body, something that is a little bit more useful, I think, in terms of in giving students criteria by which to evaluate and award their peers,” said Mr. Stuppy. “That’s what we come to pride ourselves on here at Atholton — being good people. The criteria is basically like saying, ‘Who showcases that [school] spirit?’ We’re going to give credit to those who deserve some credit and we’re not going to insist that people be labeled or be given pairings based on who they are.”
The new Homecoming Court will be comprised of four students from each grade, no longer restricted by gender, and each will receive a sash for their recognition. This means that each grades’ Court could be all boys, all girls, or a mix of both
“So, the one thing that we’re changing is that…from now on instead of one boy one girl, let’s think about having just students per grade” said Mr. Stuppy. “The one problem I’ve noticed in the past is that a lot of times it’s couples, people who the voting public finds funny to make dance together, or occasionally brothers and sisters if there are twins in the same grade. We’re trying to change this to make it more of a serious, purposeful thing, so the gender breakdown is going to be whatever we end up with.”
“The one problem I’ve noticed in the past is that a lot of times it’s couples, people who the voting public finds funny to make dance together, or occasionally brothers and sisters if there are twins in the same grade. We’re trying to change this to make it more of a serious, purposeful thing, so the gender breakdown is going to be whatever we end up with.”
“It’s something that shows that we respect four years of commitment to school spirit…We want to show we acknowledge that and respect it” said Mr. Stuppy. “Everyone is going to get a sash that just says ‘Homecoming Court,’ everyone is going to be honored in the same way, but seniors are going to get something extra.”
The new Homecoming Court was not mandated by the Howard County Public School System, in fact the Board of Education has not released any change of policy regarding the Homecoming Court in high schools. Other schools in the county, such as Reservoir and Hammond, have not made the switch. Oakland Mills’ SGA brought up the idea at the beginning of the year, but it did not gather much support, according to Oakland Mills’ student Aliya Smelkinson.
However, leaders at Atholton, including SGA Executive President Samantha Greenblatt, decided that the Court needed to involve more people to reflect the growing diversity of the school, following the example of schools like Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Montgomery County.
“I think [the new Homecoming Court] is important because it better represents Atholton’s population. Before the court was somewhat selective and was definitely geared towards couples and people who conform to “King” and “Queen,” but Atholton is filled with people who might not associate with a typical gender or might feel uncomfortable with the title King and Queen” said Greenblatt. “The Court is more about having great school spirit than anything, and now if someone wants to run that isn’t in a relationship or doesn’t want to be paired with someone else, they don’t have to be.”
This change in the Homecoming Court may seem unexpected, or maybe unwanted, for some students who are proponents of the original court style; some students still want to be able to crown a King and Queen at the annual Homecoming Pep Rally. Especially for seniors, since this is their last year and their last Homecoming, this change in the Homecoming Court may be seen as a step too far.
“To be blatantly honest, we aren’t going to be gaining anything from [the new Homecoming court],” said senior Andrew Wohlstetter. “We’re depriving the seniors [of] their two special spots for those two people that really deserved those spots. The four spots are taking away the specialness of what is being Homecoming King or Queen or Prince or Princess.”
The new Court comes only a year after the Howard County Public School System implemented the single color, gender neutral graduation gowns. Though not enforced or suggested by HCPSS, the new model for the Homecoming court shows a step forward for the Atholton community in accepting and celebrating all people for who they are.
“[The administration] thought it was a really good idea because we hadn’t thought of it, but it was such a progressive idea. With the ways things are changing with graduation [gowns] as one color, it was right in the direction with that. We were more than open to supporting that.” said Assistant Principal Ms. Nasir.
The new model of the Homecoming Court is an exciting change in the Atholton community. More people will be involved in the festivities of Homecoming in order to make a larger number of students feel comfortable to run.
As the Atholton community reflects upon the nostalgic traditions and memories of the past 50 years, the school continues to blaze ahead and make new traditions for the next fifty years in Raider Nation.