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Middletown Catholic high school responds to petitions to change same-sex prom date policy

MIDDLETOWN -- Last week, a senior at Mercy High School, an all girl Catholic school, started a petition asking to be allowed to bring a girl as a prom date. It gained more than 1,800 signatures before the student chose to close the petition.

Colin Bennett's was one of those signatures, and when he received the petition update about her decision to shut it down, he decided to start one of his own picking up where she left off.

Bennett told FOX61, "There was a statement saying essentially under pressure that's why the decision was made to shut down. And that's what really triggered me to try to take this further because when a young woman steps up and decides to fight for justice, which this is a fight for justice, and is apparently bullied by the administration of the school that's supposed to be creating a safe and nurturing environment here that's absolutely not OK. Since apparently she's not able to continue this fight, at least without repercussions, I feel like it's the least I can do to try to help."

His petition on Change.org states:

It’s time for Mercy High School to set a standard based on love and acceptance and the first step is to issue a public apology to the student that took a stand for justice. That needs to be followed by an immediate reversal of their horrible policy of discrimination. The administration of Mercy has a choice: embrace their students and all other members of our society, regardless of their identity, with love and compassion, or continue with the status quo and assume a reputation for ignorance, fear, and hate. With hope, this petition will encourage them to make the right decision.

As of Tuesday night, the petition had surpassed 1,000 signatures.

Bennett has also connected with some Mercy High School alumni and created a larger social media campaign called #WePROMise to get the word out and encourage a policy change.

Sister Mary McCarthy, Mercy High School President, sent the following statement to FOX61 in response to both petitions:

Mercy attempts at all times to embrace its students as children of God. Our mission is to see that every student is challenged to grow academically, emotionally, socially, aesthetically and spiritually and encouraged to recognize the abilities and strengths that will enable her to achieve her potential. Importantly, this mission is guided by the overarching tenets and teachings of the Catholic faith. Mercy expects that those who elect to attend the school do so with an understanding and desire to abide by these principles. In turn, students receive the support, love and prayers of the Mercy faculty, staff and administration.

As LBGT issues continue to be the subject of discussion and debate within the Catholic church and society at large, so too are they matters of consideration for Mercy High School. Mercy’s practice relative to prom attendance has been, and continues to be, that Mercy students are permitted to attend alone or in the company of a friend or friends of their choosing. Certain limitations are imposed in circumstances where students wish to invite a date from a school other than Xavier High School. In this tradition, the expectation has been that a Mercy student’s date be male. These limitations are premised both in preserving the spirit of the prom as a safe and enjoyable experience for the students of Mercy, as well as recognizing and adhering to the teachings of the Church.

The student who created the initial petition declined to comment on this story.
Bennett said he is committed to keep this fight going.

He said, "Catholics talk about love and I was raised a Catholic. I'm all about that and the teachings of Jesus, but we have to put those teachings into practice. We can't just pick and choose like, 'Oh we love and accept these folks, but we don't love and accept folks over here,' which I think is exactly what Mercy's trying to do."