GREENSBORO, N.C. – As Jada Hooks holds key chains showing two of her senior pictures, she says she feels proud.
The Guilford County high school senior is happy that she can look at the pictures and feel like herself.
“These are the best days of these children’s lives and the senior year is the best year, so you want your child to be comfortable,” said Ashley Benton, Hooks’ mother.
Benton says when she and her daughter went to take senior pictures at Smith High School Tuesday, her daughter’s comfort zone was tested.
The photographer shared with Hooks that girls usually wear pearls and a drape.
“She said, ‘I'm going to ask a sensitive question. I can see you're not as girly, so do you want to take a tux or a drape?’ And of course I said tux. She said, ‘well they traditionally make you wear a drape,” Hooks explained.
Benton says her daughter hasn’t worn a dress in 10 years.
“I could just see her anxiety level go up, and the photographer could see her anxiety level go up,” Benton said.
The photographer talked to a teacher who checked with the school’s principal to see if Hooks could wear the tuxedo.
The teacher came back to the photo session saying that Hooks would be allowed to wear the tuxedo.
Hooks and her mom are thankful for the principal’s decision.
“I just want to give him a huge thank you, a huge shout out to him because that was very big of him and very special to me,” Hooks said.
“She doesn't have to look back on a picture and say that's not me. That wasn't me and they knew that wasn't me,” Benton said.
Benton says what happened to her daughter is about more than a picture, it’s about sending a message to other openly gay youth.
“I just think that this is going to be a great story and will help other children as well to maybe not be so scared to say ‘I don't want to wear that,’” Benton said.
The school’s principal was not in the office Friday to be reached for comment.
However, a spokesperson for Guilford County Schools says that other principals have made similar accommodations.
Referencing the school system’s non-discrimination policy, the spokesperson went on to say “GCS works hard to make sure our schools are welcoming, caring, inclusive and celebratory places for all children and young people.”