When a Georgia high school student named Dex Frier was nominated for prom king by his peers, he was ecstatic. "I was jumping up and down. Me and my best friend were losing our minds, we were so excited," Frier told CBS affiliate WGCL. That excitement, however, was short-lived.
The Hall County school district blocked Frier's prom king nomination. Frier is transgender, and the school district told him he could only be nominated for prom queen – or nothing at all.
The Johnson High School student body wouldn't stand for that decision. Students created an online petition to get Frier back on the prom king ballot. It has more than 15,000 signatures so far.
"Not only are we confused at this decision, but we are severely disappointed in the Hall County School Board," the Change.org petition reads. The petition called out Superintendent Will Schofield and pointed to the school district's core beliefs.
"The two core beliefs of Hall County Schools are outlined on their webpage: 'The Most Caring Place On Earth' and 'Character, Competency, and Rigor…For All.' The decision made by Mr. Schofield fails to reflect either core value of Hall County Schools and is rather an exposition of a transphobic attitude that endangers many more than just Dex."
Frier has been identifying as male since he was a sophomore and his teachers acknowledge the name he has chosen. Some even use male pronouns in reference to him, he told WGCL. Frier knows the area is conservative, but says public schools need to accept students for who they are.
"If I've got to be the one to start the change for that, then so be it," Frier said. "And I hope this puts pressure on the Hall County School System because this shouldn't happen next year. And if it does, I'm going to be really upset because I should be the first and only person who has to go through so much trouble in order to be who I want to be."
The support of 15,000 people and counting has showed Frier that there are people out there who care — including his grandfather, Tom Frier, a self-described ultra-conservative who loves his grandson just the way he is. "We can't love out of convenience, we have to love unconditionally," Tom Frier told the station.
Dex Frier says he learned one valuable lesson that he hopes he can teach others: "There's always going to be at least one person out there to back you up and to help you stand your ground when you feel like you're falling through the floor," the teen said.
WGCL reached out to the Hall County School District and received the following response from Superintendent Will Schofield:
First, this school district has never removed any student from any prom or homecoming court. Furthermore, I will not respond publicly, in any manner, to a situation that has the potential to single out any student in any way. We protect the privacy rights of our student body. On a broader note, I am not interested in being responsible for placing our school district in a the middle of a national social, societal and legal issue which would have the potential to substantially disrupt us from our core mission of providing an education for the boys and girls in our community. Prom should be a time for students to fellowship together and celebrate their local school.
CBS News has also reached out to Schofield and is awaiting a response.