Students rally for inclusivity amid homecoming controversy in New Jersey

WAYNE, New Jersey (WABC) -- A high school in New Jersey voted for two females for this year's homecoming king and queen.

However, school administrators decided to add two additional male winners which led to a demonstration Monday at Passaic County Technical Institute.

There was a big and unexpected show of support online and in person for the seniors who were looking to break barriers and say their school failed to support them.

Students cheered for the young woman who had been voted homecoming king -- not once but three times.

"I had been going through a lot of, like, online bullying and harassment," Homecoming King Zoe Nelson said. "So it was really hard for me. But when I won, I kind of felt like it all went away, it was all worth it."

Nelson said she wanted to break down gender norms and show that a king could be powerful -- regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

"I was just so relieved, because it felt like we were finally being heard," Homecoming Queen Jyckell Perez said.

But even after being elected, Nelson chose not to attend the Homecoming event with her running mate, Perez, after the school added two male kings, in an effort to balance out the court.

The event ended up a little awkward, But Jyckell still wanted to represent the ticket.



"Zoe's campaign slogan was breaking barriers, and they said in the spirit of breaking barriers and being more inclusive, we've decided to add additional kings to the court," said her mother Christy Hansen-Grossman.

Her parents and friends say that was pretty tone-deaf.

On Monday, the principal at the sit-in apologized on behalf of the administration, saying they thought they were doing the right thing.

"I feel horrible, not just for Zoe, for everyone that feels slighted," Principal Antonio Garcia said. "That was not the intention of our decision. We wanted to include more students that were on the ballot for homecoming court. For that I'm sorry, and I apologize."

Nelson said she isn't looking for an apology, she wants genuine change.

"I am definitely very appreciative for the apology," Nelson said. "I just feel like we've heard sorry so many times."

Eyewitness News received a statement from the school saying it is proud of its diversity and supports students speaking their minds.

In fact the principal told the students today he was proud of them for organizing Monday's event. and Nelson and Perez say they've been invited to address the next school board meeting.

And they are looking forward to it.

ALSO READ | Gabby Petito's mom, stepdad speak out about Brian Laundrie
EMBED More News Videos

Gabby Petito's parents say they thought their daughter was safe with Brian Laundrie



----------
* Get Eyewitness News Delivered
* More New Jersey news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
* Follow us on YouTube
Submit a News Tip
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.