By the time Angelina Lange decided she wanted to bring her ex-girlfriend, Brianne, to the prom, they weren’t even dating anymore—they were just really good friends. They had been broken up for a while already, and had only dated for about a month anyway.
Still, Angelina knew it was going to be an issue.
Her school—St. Anthony’s, a Catholic high school in South Huntington—takes its views on homosexuality from the Catholic Church itself. And the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality…well, Angelina learned all about that in Morality class. Plus, she knew some kids in the school who identified as gay or bi, who had talked to certain administrators about coming out and were summarily convinced to wait till after graduation.
But Angelina? Angelina doesn’t even identify as gay or lesbian or anything. She’s just Angelina: a high school senior; a good student; a member of St. Anthony’s Leadership Team, step team and candidate for class secretary; a smart, sweet 17-year-old kid. And she just wanted to bring Brianne to the prom.
That, Angelina learned, was never going to be an option.
What she learned beyond that was a lesson in St. Anthony’s policies—policies that might be described as byzantine or inconsistent or discriminatory or degrading. Policies, too, that St. Anthony’s is under no obligation or inclination to change.
What Angelina learned was that she was in for a fight—a fight she had no hope of winning. There was no way Brianne was going to be at the St. Anthony’s prom. And if Angelina wanted to attend, she would do so with a boy or she would do so alone.
Prom is an issue for all high school students, of course. Kids (and parents) spend countless hours and dollars making plans and reservations, renting tuxes and limos, stressing over acne and photographs and hotel suites. In the contained, pressurized microcosm that is high school, prom is a massive single moment in which to celebrate all that has come before, and to put off—for one night, at least—all that is to follow. Prom is a legitimate rite of passage, an important, perhaps essential, part of the American high school experience.
For kids like Angelina, though—students at religious schools who hope to share that experience with a same-sex date—limos and hotel suites are not necessarily paramount concerns.
St. Anthony’s High School is a co-ed Roman Catholic college preparatory school that follows the Franciscan tradition. It is—crucially—a private school (more on that later). It is chartered by the State of New York and is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. It houses grades 9-12, and its current student body is made up of approximately 2,600 students. It has an unusually high academic standard: At St. Anthony’s, 75 is a passing grade (at most high schools, 65 is a passing grade), and a student must have an average of 80 or better to obtain a letter of recommendation to any college.
Angelina transferred to St. Anthony’s in 11th grade, as a junior, after a few frustrating years at a Suffolk County public high school. She’s not particularly religious—she chose St. Anthony’s because of its reputation and promise. She wanted something with more structure than what she found in public school.
And she got that.