Vandalia school prom drama: Transgender discrimination or prom court vote error?

Family of senior enlists lawyer after king/queen flap; school says attorney’s letter has misrepresentations



VANDALIA — The family of a Vandalia-Butler High School senior has secured legal counsel after they alleged the student was discriminated against based on his identity as a transgender male.

In a letter obtained from the school district by the Dayton Daily News via public records request, attorney Marianne Jones Ford claims the student in question had been voted onto the prom king court, only to subsequently be notified by school administration that the appointment was illegitimate.

“This young man had been voted onto the original prom king court, but his father was later informed on April 3 by Superintendent Rob O’Leary someone ‘born a female’ is not allowed to serve on the prom king court, per a long-standing policy that was not produced when requested,” Ford said in her April 25 letter, adding that the student was allegedly informed he may be permitted to serve on the queen’s side of the court.

Ford said these alleged statements qualify as sex-based discrimination under Title IX.

The school district claims Ford’s letter “includes misrepresentations and implications based upon misguided assumptions.”

“The district disagrees with the letter’s implications and conclusions,” a statement from the district reads. “The district will not comment further based upon student privacy rights and apparent potential litigation.”

Prom court selectees were informed in a notice from Butler High School dated April 21 that there would be no vote held to appoint a king or queen for the prom, which was held April 22. The notice sites “concerns” regarding the voting procedures.

“After the initial announcement of prom court, it was brought to our attention that there were concerns with the nomination process,” the notice reads. “As we investigated, we found that there were several irregularities including juniors who voted even though court selections were only open to seniors, students who voted for more candidates than they were instructed, and voting after the deadline.”

The notice claims school staff were able to confirm there were students who “should have qualified for prom court and were not included in the initial announcement.”

In an April 21 email from Superintendent O’Leary to board of education members, O’Leary claims “irregularities in the voting” erroneously left one male and one female student from being named to the court.

“There was also one girl who shouldn’t have qualified but benefitted from the irregularities,” the email continues. “But we are not taking that opportunity away from her and not even going to inform her of that.”

On April 14, O’Leary had referenced via email an ongoing investigation into the “concerns about prom court,” adding that voting would be called off, at least temporarily.

“Until we get through all of the investigations and look at everything, we are definitely not at all comfortable in doing a vote for king and queen,” O’Leary said.

One week later, on April 20, O’Leary told board and staff members no vote would be held, citing time constraints. Prom was held two days later, on Saturday, April 22.

None of the emails directly referenced any student’s gender identity as being the root cause for an interruption in voting and associated investigation.

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