Wisconsin Transgender Student Wins Battle to Run For Prom King

After protests and petitions, Ash Whitaker has been allowed to run for Prom King

ByABC News
April 7, 2016, 3:35 PM

— -- After an uphill battle involving protests and a petition, a Wisconsin school will allow transgender high school student Ash Whitaker to run for Prom King.

Whitaker, a Junior at Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was initially told by school administrators that he had to run for Prom Queen because he was assigned female at birth.

"I said my son is not a queen," Melissa Whitaker, Ash's mother told ABC News today. Whitaker described her son as, "fun, funky, and probably more wise than I wish for him to be."

The precocious 16-year-old started a MoveOn.org petition gathering nearly 6,000 signatures of support, which he sent to his school.

In the petition Ash writes, "I am trying to run for Prom King at my school, but am unable to due to my school's resistance and insistent discrimination against my transgender identity (FtM). In addition to this, I am unable to use the male restroom or receive respectful identification from said administration."

After a series of student-organized protests, the decision was taken from the school level to the district level, according to Tanya Ruder, a spokesperson for the Kenosha Unified School District.

"In order to meet the needs of all students while maintaining what has historically been done, any student who qualifies for Tremper High School prom court will be listed on the ballot under the gender for which they identify," Ruder said in a statement.

Whitaker said she is pleased that her son can now run for Prom King, but added, "It's not enough. It was hard to be really happy because there is still the other issue."

She said her son had been using the boys' restroom at school all year before he was suddenly told he could not. The school compromised by allowing him to use single-stalled restrooms at two far ends of the school, but none of the boys' restrooms in between.

"He is a good student and a good person, being pulled out of class or threatened with disciplinary action because he has to use the bathroom," Whitaker added.

The school district has not taken a position on the bathroom question. "At this time we do not have a policy in place for transgender students," Ruder said, adding that they are currently conducting research to reach a conclusion.