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Published 10:35 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2012

After much deliberation, officials at Escambia County High School are still debating whether or not the school will retool its long-standing system of electing two homecoming queens – one black and one white.

In 2011, second year ECHS Principal Zickeyous Byrd expressed a concern over the practice some people called out of date and even racist.

“I’ve heard rumblings here and there that some people aren’t happy with it and we just wanted to see if this may be something that is outdated and needs to change,” Byrd said just prior to the 2011 homecoming queen elections.

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The concerns of the ECHS faculty led to an poll, which confirmed their suspicions that people in the Atmore community felt a change should be made.

Of 100 people who answered the unscientific poll, 82 felt the school should do away with the system in favor of only one queen based on the most votes. Sixteen voters expressed no issues with the current two-queen system while two people were unsure.

ECHS homecoming committee sponsor Andrea Chance said the concerns of the public were taken into account during the 2011 queen selection, but there was not quite enough time to make major changes to the system before the votes were all in.

Chance said despite the school not switching methods in 2011, the results of the election shows the students are not thinking about race when making their selections. Chance said votes did not have to be counted in a particular way in order to identify a queen from each race, but instead naturally tallied to crown a black student as one queen and a half black and half white student as the second.

“That wasn’t the system, that just happened naturally,” Chance said.

Chance does not believe that, should ECHS move to only one queen, minority students would never have a chance to be represented as queen due to the school’s racial makeup.

“Just because we’re a predominantly black school doesn’t mean necessarily that a black girl is going to get it because our kids don’t see color,” Chance said. “They see everybody the same, so whoever they like and whoever treats everybody fair, that’s who they’re going to pick as queen. Not what color they are.”

As of right now the ECHS system allows for two maids from each class — one majority student and one from a racial minority — typically Caucasian, Native American and students of mixed racial backgrounds. The senior class is represented by four maids, two majority and two minority, and two queens are selected from the court.

Chance said she has not been surprised by the public’s overwhelming opinion that the two-queen system should be phased out but said people should take into consideration the wants of ECHS students.

“As far as the girls here they like having two queens but the general public still sees it as a form of racism,” she said. “It’s not about me it’s about the kids and a lot of kids like having two queens here because it gets two people recognized. The public doesn’t see it necessarily the way the kids see it. I think it almost should be a school vote. If you want one queen or if you want two queens, because it’s their school. It’s not ours. Let them decide.”

Chance said she and Mr. Byrd have considered both options for the 2012 Homecoming and will most likely come to a decision over the summer. Chance added that either system will work at ECHS, but stressed the current selection process has to do with tradition and the wants of the students and not with fostering racial division.

“How the public sees things and how they actually are in the school are two different things,” Chance said. “All of the people talking in the public, I would like to tell them to come on into the school and see that we are one. We are not two.”