Lance Sanderson was dismayed when he was told he couldn't bring a male date to his homecoming. Sanderson, an 18-year-old senior at the all-male Christian Brothers High School (CBHS) in Memphis, Tenn., has been out to the school since he was a freshman and didn't anticipate a problem when he first raised the possibility with an administrator over the summer.
Sanderson started a Change.org petition begging the school to change it's policy. He wrote:
I just want to bring a date of my choice to homecoming like the rest of my friends and classmates. 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.
The petition garnered nearly 25,000 signatures, and won Sanderson support from Shonda Rhimes and Dan Savage:
But it didn't convince the administration to allow Sanderson to bring his date. Homecoming was this past weekend, and Sanderson didn't go to the event. On Monday, he was suspended. He wrote in Culture Stocked that when he arrived at school, he thought there was a "strong possibility of being called into the office to speak to the administrators about future policy changes and ways to become more inclusive." But apparently that's not what happened.
By 7:30 school administrators had come looking for me. They hauled me into the office and sat me down before I even had a chance to get to my first class. The administrator in question said that the press they received, as a result of my petition, was both damaging to the school and to the brothers in general…. I was then promptly dismissed from school for the week without a chance to further discuss the issue.
Sanderson said he sent the administration an email when he got home, but that he has not yet heard a response. In the note, obtained by New Now Next, Sanderson said his experience goes against the school's "value of brotherhood," which he strongly believes in:
I am hurt by this exclusion. It goes against the Lasallian value of brotherhood that the school is supposed to stand for. You won’t let me dance with my date and you won’t let me go to class now either. I had hoped that today would be one for positive conversation going forward. Instead, I was sent home.
Sanderson also tweeted that he received an award for achievement on his Advanced Placement exams.
A gay CBHS alumni told a local Fox affiliate he is in touch with administrators and, though he won't speak on behalf of the school, we should expect a policy change in the near future.
CBHS and Sanderson did not respond requests for comment.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.