Dex Frier, a senior at Johnson High School in Gainesville, Georgia, claims school officials removed him from this year’s prom king ballot because he is transgender and told him to enter as a prom queen nominee instead.
“I’m requesting that my identity be respected and included,” Frier, 17, told NBC News. “I want to bring awareness to the fact that removing me from the king ballot and giving me the option to run as queen shouldn’t have been the way to fix this situation.”
Lisa Frier, Frier’s grandmother and guardian, said her grandson shared with her more than a month ago that he had been nominated by his peers for prom king.
“They probably voted for him because he’s amazingly talented, extremely diverse in many things, very engaging, very opinionated and smart. I believe that the group he associates with see value in that,” she said. “But perhaps, they are also trying to make a statement: ‘Let’s be loving and kind and inclusive,’ which is what one of the school mottos is. The administration removing him from the ballot is not a representation of that whatsoever.”
Lisa Frier claims Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield is responsible for removing her grandson — who began identifying as a boy during his sophomore year of high school — from the ballot as prom king. Schofield appeared to deny the claim in an email sent to NBC News.
“First, this school district has never removed any student from any prom or homecoming court,” Schofield wrote. “Furthermore, I will not respond publicly, in any manner, to a situation that has the potential to single out any student in any way. We protect the privacy rights of our student body.”
Lisa Frier said this is not the first time school officials have discriminated against her family because of gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Three years ago, when my oldest grandson, who is gay, tried writing about the joys of coming out in his yearbook, he was forced to edit it out,” she explained.
A petition calling for Frier’s return to the prom king ballot has amassed almost 14,000 signatures as of Friday morning.
The petition, which was started less than a week ago, states: “Not only are we confused at this decision, but we are severely disappointed in the Hall County School Board. The two core beliefs of Hall County Schools are outlined on their webpage: ‘The Most Caring Place On Earth’ and ‘Character, Competency, and Rigor…For All.’ The decision made by Mr. Schofield fails to reflect either core value of Hall County Schools and is rather an exposition of a transphobic attitude that endangers many more than just Dex.”
“Our request is simple: allow Dex Frier to remain as a male member of Johnson High School's Prom Court,” the petition continues.
Two competing petitions affirming Frier's prom king exclusion have fewer than 100 signatures combined. One is titled, “If your birth certificate says you're male then you can be king of prom at Johnson High.” The petition states Frier should not be on the prom king ballot to keep “prom the way it has naturally been done. By agreeing to sign this petition we can keep this a tradition at our school and have a fun time at prom.”
In response to that ballot, Frier said, “Just because I am trans does not give someone the right to separate me from all of the cis men. I am a man like any other going to our school and if you can’t stand the thought of a transgender man beating you for a meaningless title at a high school dance, you should probably not be running yourself.”
“One fear I have is that we have opened a window that a lot of unkind people are going to crawl through, and that is my biggest fear for him,” Lisa Frier said. “But I feel it’s very important that we make a statement and we stand up for what we believe in.”
On what’s next for her grandson, Lisa Frier said she hopes the school leaves him on the ballot and allows him to be part of the prom king court.
“I just hope he is able to go to the prom Saturday night and enjoy himself,” she said. “This needs to be left as it should be. He should never have been taken off as king in the first place.”
“This is not the administration’s prom. It's the kid’s prom,” she added.
Prom at Johnson High School is Saturday.