This year, Riverside-Brookfield High School dropped the titles of homecoming king and queen in favor of Royal Bulldogs, who were the two top vote-getters among those chosen by seniors for the homecoming court. The 2022 royals turned out to be Bradley Ruska (above) and Sophie Swicionis (below, wearing tiara). The change in format was driven by the RBHS Student Association. (Bob Skolnik/Contributor)

Riverside-Brookfield High School seniors Bradley Ruska and Sophie Swicionis were crowned the school’s royalty at the homecoming pep assembly on Sept. 16. But don’t call them king and queen. They were officially introduced as Royal Bulldogs as the school joins a growing number eliminating the specific titles of king and queen. 

There will also be no homecoming king and queen at Lyons Township High School at this weekend’s homecoming as that school also has eliminated the titles this year. 

“LT’s move away from a homecoming queen and king reflects a larger trend in schools, as they look to build a more inclusive Homecoming experience for all students,” said Peter Geddeis, the director of student activities at LTHS in a comment that emailed to the Landmark.

Many schools are trying to get away from gender-identified roles. Oak Park and River Forest High School eliminated their homecoming king and queen last year.

Sophie Swicionis (wearing tiara) was crowned the school’s royalty at the homecoming pep assembly on Sept. 16. (Bob Skolnik/Contributor)

At RBHS, the decision to ditch the titles of king and queen came from students. Members of the Student Association thought about making the change last year but decided not to after not having a homecoming in 2020. But they made a change for prom last spring, when they eliminated specific numbers of boys and girls for the prom court, going with top vote-getters instead.

Instead, seniors selecting five boys and five girls for the homecoming court this year, they simply counted all the votes without respect for gender and ended up with a homecoming court of seven girls and three boys. 

In addition to Ruska and Swicionis, the RBHS Homecoming Court this year consisted of Mariel Beltran, Annabella Cornolo, Rex Dockendorf, Lara Huns, Ava Marrello, Augustus Mendoza, Joaliz Rodriguez and Anasofia Zaper. 

“Equity,” said RBHS teacher Angela Ziola, the faculty advisor to the Student Association, explaining the students’ reasoning for disregarding gender. “It shouldn’t matter; it’s top 10 who the students wanted on the Court. It doesn’t need to be gender identified, so it was just that whole idea of let’s just go with the top 10.”

After the court was selected the entire student body voted, as they always have, and the top two vote-getters were crowned Royal Bulldogs.

“We thought that was too traditional and old fashioned,” said Ziola of the titles of king and queen.

But the Student Association, which is open to all students who attend meetings, did not want to get rid of too much tradition. They voted to retain crowns for Royal Bulldogs and sashes for the entire homecoming court.

Swicionis and Ruska didn’t care much what they were called. 

“I think I would have been happy either way,” Swicionis said. “It’s just an honor to be on the court, but to win is like an extra special feeling.”

Swicionis said that she supported the new terminology.

“It’s cool to start new traditions and start new things,” Swicionis said. 

Ruska enjoyed wearing the crown, not just at the pep assembly but also at the homecoming dance on Saturday evening.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Ruska said. “Everyone just looks up to you and it’s just great.”

Ruska and Swicionis are both athletes who are also in the RBHS band.

Students the Landmark spoke to supported getting rid of the titles of homecoming king and queen.

“I think it’s a good change,” said senior cheerleader Brooke Schwarte. “It’s more inclusive to all. … It’s 2022 now; it’s socially acceptable to have this.”

Freshman Nola Rodriguez also supported the change.

“I feel like there is a lot of stigma around king and queen,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like it’s more inclusive and it gives everybody an opportunity to be feel included.”

Two members of the RBHS Class of 2022, who came back to visit the school for homecoming also supported the change.

“It’s a thoughtful way to keep everyone involved,” said Isabel Anaya, a 2022 graduate who was back for homecoming.

Her friend Giuliana Speziale agreed. 

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Speziale said.