Is Oklahoma’s Del City High School Encouraging Lesbian Students to Drop Out? [UPDATED]

UPDATE: It’s incredibly possible and perhaps even “likely” or “definite” that this story, reported dubiously by the allegedly reputable Advocate, is bullshit. Stay tuned for a follow-up post in a few hours!

UPDATE #2: HERE IT IS!

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According to the Mid Del School District’s website, you should consider sending your children to their schools because they have art, sports, community, good teachers and “a Dropout Prevention Specialist and Graduation Coaches to assist students who are at risk of not earning a High School Diploma.”

That is, if you’re straight.

From The Advocate:

According to KWTV News, 18-year-old Melissa McKenzie said she was kicked out of Del City High School in Del City, Okla., at the beginning of the semester when the principal found out she was living with her girlfriend instead of her family. The principal then told her if she returned to her family’s home, she would be welcomed back to school.

Kelsey Hicks (pictured), McKenzie’s girlfriend, dropped out of school but wanted to finish her education so she could become a firefighter. Upon asking school leaders if she could return, she said they instead encouraged her to drop out.

“The principal will say ‘Well, you’re gay. You’re not going to do anything with your life. You might as well just drop out now,'” Hicks said. “It’s stuff to put you down that makes you want to drop out.”

Kelsey Hicks also says that she was kicked off the softball team for being gay, which seems particularly crazy because how are you supposed to meet girls if you can’t play on the softball team.

[Fun Fact! In 2008, Oklahoma was the only state in which every county voted for John McCain.]

The local news station tried to get a comment from the school, but all the school would say was that neither of the girls is a current student of the school and neither has filed a complaint. The girls say that they have filed complaints and that they are not giving up on their fight to get back into school.

Kelsey just wants to be a firefighter like Dani Campbell. How can you argue with that face.

I mean is this for real? Maybe we’re just being naive but it seems pretty crazy that in 2010 a principal – or any other educator or thinking human being, for that matter – would suggest or encourage dropping out of school, for ANY student. But then again, people are assholes. Maybe it’s not so crazy that some bigoted high school principal would see nothing wrong with imposing his own dubious morality on his student body. It probably happens more often than we’d like to think.

Thankfully the girls are speaking out, and they’re not the only ones: over the last few years we’ve seen an increasing number of kids taking their stories to the media when damning the man locally doesn’t work out. This was crystal-clear for Constance McMillen and Ceara Sturgis. But sometimes the quickness with which these stories circulate works against us, like in the case of Cheyenne Williams. And sometimes people die before their stories get heard, which is the greatest tragedy of all.

In fact, Constance McMillen might have changed the world. Because maybe school administrators don’t listen, but journalists sure do! And we have our enablers, the ACLU and Lambda Legal.

Just recently 14-year-old openly gay student Graeme Taylor spoke at a school board meeting in defense of his teacher, Jay McDowell, who was disciplined after he kicked two students out of his class for anti-gay bullying and when he was unsuccessful, Towleroad and consequentially Buzzfeed picked up the story. You can watch the video here, it’s pretty moving.

Kids are already among the most powerless people in our society, and it can be really difficult to stand up to adults in positions of power when you have little-to-no agency; the extra disenfranchisement of being gay makes what these kids are doing extra brave, and we hope these schools will be held accountable.

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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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22 Comments

  1. Kelsey just wants to be a firefighter like Dani Campbell. How can you argue with that face.

    That comment kind of killed the seriousness of this post but, its really not cool that teachers and principals are encouraging people not to graduate.

  2. You have this as “Del Mar School District” but it should be the “Mid-Del School District”. I know, I went there to Del City High School back in the 1980s, before they stopped having their graduation in the huge field house and started having it down the street in a huge megachurch along with the other schools in the district.

  3. I feel like if I were these girls I would save as much money as I could for a one-way ticket to either coast-east or west. Just get the hell out of the mid-west. I’ve never been to the mid-west (well once to Indy and Illinois for a work trip that was super quick), but I envision it being a place where really butchy lesbians and really feminine men would be hog-tied and stomped on immediately upon arrival. All of that middle America being the “real people” of America is terrifying. I mean, something is wrong if, say, an entire state’s counties votes for John McCain.Plus, you can’t get good Chinese food anywhere beyond PA, or so I hear. That is a travesty. Let’s send them over some crab rangoons and General Gau’s chicken. Maybe that will put them in a more accepting, open-minded mood.

    • So evacuate all the gays and make sure that no one here ever meets them or changes their mind or has the slightest challenge to their beliefs? No, thank you.
      (Though if you want to buy new uniforms for our gay softball leagues, do feel free to send a check).

      It is undeniable that Oklahoma is VERY conservative religiously and politically (to the point where it seems trite to list both as though they can be separated in this state). And in towns of 22,000 I’m sure it’s even harder to be yourself. But take one look at hate crimes news from NYC or LA and you’ll remember that nowhere is perfect.

      Oklahoma City and Tulsa (as well as the college town of Norman ) have very sizable queer communities. Tulsa’s annual pride parade is a good time and several area churches join the gay bar floats while I’ve only ever seen a handful of protesters (who one year a local, straight-owned coffee shop chased off their property with a kitchen hose which was kind of hilarious). The Equality Center is very active, there’s a group that puts on events each month for queer youth which many kids from smaller communities come into town for.

      I know both butch lesbians and effeminate gay men and while they’ve faced discrimination they also have friends, family and neighbors who love and support them regardless of whether their love of guns and irrational fear of socialism led them to vote for John McCain.

      It is especially hard for youth who might be stuck living with a family who doesn’t accept them and a school that doesn’t support them, but after 18 it gets better. And we need our LGBT community to stay here and change it for the little gaybies that are being born to unsuspecting straight parents right now.

      By staying here, we can make a change. A friend from high school went from homophobe to founder of a GSA and a queer-friendly fraternity at his Christian university because a friend came out to him. My conservative neighbor was genuinely disappointed my GF won’t be able to come visit until May. We NEED to be here and be out to make a change. Unfortunately, many people can’t or won’t confront their beliefs until they are faced with a direct, personal contradiction to the prejudices they’ve learned.

      Also, the concert Tegan and Sara gave here at the Cain’s ballroom was, according to their twitter, their best show this year. SO ALL IS NOT LOST.

      So please, refrain from judging an entire region of millions by the headlines before you even experience the place for yourself. Not only can you find good Chinese food (though I’ll admit many are crap), but the taquerias are to die for.

  4. In situations like this, I always ask myself: What would Bette Porter do? But I usually don’t have that kind of poise, so it often comes across more like Kit: “What’chu mean kicking out these baby girls, you bleeping homophobic motherbleepers!”

    Seriously though, how ridiculous?! What astonishes me isn’t so much that these kinds of attitudes still exist … but that people in public positions (principals, school district representatives, etc.) feel like they can behave in this manner and get away with it.

    With the Internet and blogs and 24-hour cable news, these controversies will make headlines — some bigger than others and some in larger forums than others. But these situations do make news — and I would think cause some level of unwanted attention/embarassment to the school.

    That’s particularly true in this case. Even conservative wingnuts who might have supported the school’s decision in the Constance McMillen affair would be, I think, upset by a school actually encouraging any student to drop out.

    But who knows? I gave up on understanding those folks long, long ago.

    Best of luck to the girls. I hope they know that a lot of people are rooting for them to succeed.

  5. I’ve heard that the actual policy of the district is that no child my attend school if they are not living with a legal guardian. Even though the girl is technically 18, she would have to go through a series of paperwork to still attend school while living on her own, or with her girlfriend.

  6. First of all, I’m a recent graduate of del city high school. Second of all, these girls are known for being troublemakers. I know for a fact Kelsey hicks has been suspended numerous times. She was kicked off of the cheer squad for bad behavior. Her sophomore year she forged a doctor’s note to be absent from school on “senior ditch day” which resulted in suspension. Melissa was not able to stay at the school because her girlfriend of whom she lives with lives outside of the boundaries that the district set in place. The principal of whom they speak of is a very nice man. He would never say something of complete ignorance. This story has also been taken out of context. She said if she were to say something to him then he would say that she’s gay she won’t go anywhere in life. She didn’t say that he actually spoke those words. These girls are girls looking for attention and using their sexual orientation as an excuse. I have witnessed many gay couples at dchs graduate. It is not their sexual orientation that got them kicked out. It is their bad behavior and lack of respect for authority in which they have shown by coming up with this ridiculous story. The district and principals deserve more respect and these girls have not earned the respect for their words that they have been given. When you look into the history of these students and the history of the school you will realize these girls are lying. They give kids of dchs a bad name. By the way I am from the west coast and now go to college on the west coast so I am not the “bible pushing” Oklahoman stereotype. I was also in the top of my graduating class at dchs. In other words I believe what I have to say about this deserves some credit. And I’m sorry about any grammatical errors that may be present in my comment. I’m using my iPod to type this rather than a computer so grammatical errors are a little less noticeable.

  7. I live in Oklahoma though I’m not from the Del City area I think Beth has a point; I had a friend who actually transferred from my high school TO Del City because they were more accepting of gays and lesbians. I don’t know these girls, or their reputation but I have a feeling this is a story being blown out of proportion. However, that doesn’t mean that similar cases haven’t happened in other areas and have most likely just been unreported. If thats the case it’s ridiculous and hopefully something can be done.

  8. Please watch for a counter-story to be presented by the original reporter. The gay community of del city high school is outraged and will present a very strong defense for the school. I promise you the original story is a complete lie. These girls are known for their lies and attention seeking. It’s a shame their parents didn’t teach them manners, proper English, to respect authority, and to not lie. I’m a proud dchs graduate and always will be. The truth about how the school and that particular principal behaves towards gays will be made known. Watch for it. Don’t always take the first thing you hear to be the truth. Look a little more in depth at the situation. The truth will prevail. Good luck to Jaime. You’ll hear about her soon :)

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  10. I really wish that you would have gotten your facts straight while writing this. Kelsey Hicks didn’t drop out of school. She went to night school and then decided she wanted to return to Del City High School about a month later. McKenzie’s girlfriend lives out of the school district and that means she would have had to move back in with her mom to go back to Del City. They got kicked off of the softball team because they were making bad grades not because they were gay!!! The amount of Lesbians/Gay/Bisexuals that have graduated from that school in the last five years is a huge number. Many have held honors when graduating, played sports (have taken our sports teams to the state championships), and even held offices in the school’s clubs. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. The principals under fire are some of the best principals I have had a pleasure meeting and I could never see them saying something like that. In fact, those principals have helped students who were Gay/Lesbian graduate who probably wouldn’t have otherwise. The facts in this story are so wrong.

    • yes, we will be emailing The Advocate regarding their complete failure to accurately report the news. We rely on trusted sources like The Advocate for our stories, and clearly they aren’t as responsibly run as we once thought.

  11. thanks for owning up to this one quickly. A serious mistake was made by the crappy local news, and then compounded by the advocate, which spread exponentially. Kudos for recognizing the BS and having te courage to say it.

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  13. I personally know all three of the girls that went on the news. I did not go to DCHS but I do know a lot of schools in Oklahoma discriminate against gays, we are of course in the bible belt of the US. Many people are still set in old fashion ways or are way too religious for their own good. I do have a few things to say about the girls.
    Melissa Makenzie is known for being a liar and a problem to many people so she probably caused alot of issues at school.
    Kelsey Hicks is a great girl, she might have taken what the school told her wrong. She is very outspoken and is a bit of a trouble maker but I will have to say that the news station really screwed the story up.
    Brittney MacDowell moved to oklahoma about a year and a half ago and does not get in much trouble. When she first got to the school and started hanging out with the lesbian group the principal told her that the group she was hanging out with had a terrible lifestyle and she would go no where in life being friends with them.
    If that comment wasnt about them being gay, then it was still a comment that shouldnt have been made by him, he has no right to tell someone who they should and shouldnt hang out with no matter what the reason. and telling her she wouldnt go anywhere in life because shes friends with them? he doesnt know the future and shouldnt put a student down like that.

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