A gay student at an all-boys Catholic prep school in Memphis, Tennessee, says school administrators are refusing to allow him to bring his date to the homecoming dance.
Lance Sanderson, a senior at Christian Brothers High School, says he had hoped to take a boy from another school to Saturday’s event; however, his request was denied.
Citing school policy, administrators told him that while students “may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students or with a girl from another school,” boys from other schools may not attend “for logistical reasons.”
As WMC-TV notes, the school said that this policy has always been in place. Sanderson insists he was not aware of such a rule, and was given a vastly different message last year when he approached a school official about his homecoming date.
“[The official] said the school doesn't discriminate, and I could bring whoever I want,” the 18-year-old told Mic.com.
That particular official left over the summer, and since then, Sanderson says he’s met with “harsh opposition” from the school.
The student told WHBQ-TV that he was given troubling information when he approached administrators about his homecoming date.
“I was given several examples of statistics like they said gay couples have higher divorce rates, and that they're violent; just different things that didn't make sense, and I’ve come to find aren't true,” Sanderson said. “They said specifically as a Catholic school, they couldn't support that … and that they struggled with the idea of me taking a guy to homecoming or prom.”
The officials stand by the policy, yet insist that homophobia is not tolerated in the school.
“Over the years, we have met with gay graduates who have asked about the school and we have assured them it is a kinder and gentler school and that this generation of students is very welcoming of students from all backgrounds. They are not homophobic and we are proud of their brotherhood,” the school wrote in a statement, per WHBQ-TV.
The statement added that the “the school has never let boys from other schools attend these dances as the mixing of boys from other schools in such an open atmosphere can cause problems.”
Sanderson takes issue with this reasoning. This week, he launched a Change.org petition, urging the school to rethink its policy.
“I'm being told by my school that I may not be able to bring a date that I choose -- simply because he is a guy,” Sanderson wrote on the campaign page. “Help me send a message to Christian Brothers High School that there's no place for discrimination in school. Let them know that LGBT students like me should be allowed to bring a same-sex date.”
Sanderson, who came out during his freshman year, added that he has experienced discrimination at the hands of his fellow students at CBHS.
“It's been a tough four years for me [at the school] … and I've experienced a lot of homophobia,” he wrote. “But now it's not classmates causing the issue -- it's administrators. School officials who should be looking out for students like me, not targeting us with discrimination.”
Thus far, more than 9,000 people have signed the petition.
Many netizens, including students from CBHS, have rallied around the teen on social media, using the hashtag #LetLanceDance:
Sanderson told the Memphis Flyer that he technically could go to homecoming with a male date from his high school, but he believes the administration would “paint it as we're just friends going together.”
He's still unsure if he's going to attend the event.
“I just want to bring a date of my choice to homecoming like the rest of my friends and classmates,” Sanderson wrote on Change.org. “I'm not asking for special treatment. I'm just asking for respect, and the chance to make my last homecoming a truly memorable experience.”
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