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Lesbian students enter to cheers at Minn. school

Two lesbian high school students who fought for the right to walk together as part of a royalty court made their entrances Monday to the cheers of hundreds of classmates.
Image: Sarah Lindstrom and Desiree Shelton
Desiree Shelton, right, and Sarah Lindstrom walk as a pair into the royalty court procession as students cheer in the background at the Snow Days Pep Fest at Champlin Park High School on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011 in Champlin, Minn.Jim Mone / AP
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Two lesbian high school students who fought for the right to walk together as part of a royalty court made their entrances Monday to the cheers of hundreds of classmates.

Sarah Lindstrom and Desiree Shelton wore matching black suits with pink ties and held hands as they entered the Snow Days Pep Fest at Champlin Park High School in Minneapolis' northwest suburbs.

Students voted onto the royalty court traditionally enter the assembly in boy-girl pairs. After Lindstrom and Shelton, both 18, were elected, school officials last week announced a change in procedure: court members would walk in individually or accompanied by a parent or favorite teacher.

School officials said they merely wanted to prevent the two from being teased. But on Friday, two groups — the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights — sued on their behalf.

On Saturday, in federally mediated talks, school officials relented.

The school district said that allowing the student to enter in pairs was part of a broader discussion on how to make the school more inclusive.

"Sarah and Des are pleased with this positive outcome and gratified by the school district’s commitment to honoring all students," said reported by the Minnesota Independent

Champlin Park is part of the Anoka-Hennepin school district, Minnesota's largest, which has been in the spotlight in the past year for its handling of issues involving gay and lesbian students. Six students have committed suicide in the district since the beginning of the 2009-10 school year, and advocacy groups have linked some of the deaths to the bullying of gay students.

The district said last month its own investigation did not find evidence that bullying contributed to the students' deaths.