PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Students at Harriton High School in Montgomery County are protesting the administration’s decision to change the name of a popular competition to something more gender neutral.
Student journalists with Harriton TV set up their equipment in preparation of the Lower Merion Township school board meeting.
The story they’ve been following: the district’s decision to change the name of the annual event “Mr. Harriton” to “Mix Harriton.”
“Our district has made a real commitment to being gender inclusive and the perception was that with the name of ‘Mr. Harriton’ and also at our other high school, ‘Mr. Lower Marion,’ the perception was that girls were not equal partners,” said Amy Buckman, director of school and community relations with the Lower Marion School District.
But through that student reporting, the outlet got the sense that an overwhelming majority of students were against the gender inclusive name change.
“It was made to ironically parody beauty pageants, female beauty pageants, so obviously there is a lot of objectification and sexism that’s in those events. Traditionally Mr. Harriton, like many high school pageants of its kind, are steeped in satire,” said co-president Sam Catania.
Several Harriton High School students who spoke at the meeting voiced concerns that if the male parody aspect of the event is removed, the greater message is lost and it simply becomes a pageant.
Other student speakers said the district had good intentions but missed the mark on a complex issue.
“If a male wins ‘Mix Harriton,’ don’t they have a right to ask to be called ‘Mr. Harriton’ since that is their preferred prefix?” said a student who spoke at the meeting.
Even with the backlash, the district said it is proud of the student journalism and hope students remain aware and involved.
“Our hope is that from here on out the kids dedicate themselves to making it a fantastic event,” said Buckman.