- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2004

If your son left for Eleanor Roosevelt High School yesterday decked out in a wrap skirt, makeup and heels, don’t fret: The school held its annual Switch Day, on which male and female students and faculty members dress as each other.

The tradition, school officials said, is meant to boost school spirit during Homecoming Week, but a couple of irate parents got their knickers in a twist.

“We had two parents call who wanted Principal [Sylvester] Conyers to excuse their children from school because they feel it promotes sexuality,” said Trina Ford, the secretary at Roosevelt’s main office. “But it’s not happening. The absences won’t be excused.”

Mr. Conyers acknowledged the complaints but downplayed the negative feedback.

“This is all part of Spirit Week,” he said. “It gives students a chance to show spirit in a variety of ways based on different themes. That’s all.”

Mr. Conyers also said he was dismayed at the amount of press attention the event was getting, compared with the minimal amount given to the Greenbelt school finishing in the top 10 among state high schools in achievement-test results.

The complaints show that “students cannot participate in anything innocent,” Miss Ford said.

“It was done in the spirit of Homecoming Week,” she said. “My son graduated from [Roosevelt], and he participated in Switch Day his whole time there.”

Despite the minor grumbling, the day ended without complications. The majority of the school’s 2,764 students did not get into the spirit, though the few who did said it was all in the name of fun.

Tim Young, a 10th-grader from Hyattsville, attended school in a black shoulder-length wig, white heels, a pink top and matching knee-length skirt, revealing a pair of hairy legs. He had avoided participating last year as a freshman for fear of hazing, but decided to join in the fun this year.

“It was just to be a little different,” he said. “I wanted to show a little school spirit.”

Miss Ford, who dressed in men’s attire, pointed out that participation was not mandatory.

“It’s like Halloween,” she said. “If you have a problem with your son or daughter participating, then don’t let them. But in my three years here, I’ve never heard of any problems with Switch Day. Another secretary has been here 15 years, and she said she doesn’t recall any problems.”

Joan Hoff of the International Foundation for Gender Education agreed that such sex-based theme days at schools are generally harmless.

“Cross-dressers usually hide their desires because it’s a subject of shame, especially at a young age when people are more insensitive,” she said. “But this is part of a social event. Putting on a dress for a big game does not seem like a problem.”

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