Adam Bell, 18, told WHNS that he ran for Powdersville High School prom king with the student body knowing he'd wear a dress to the dance and he got nearly 50 percent of the vote. The openly gay honors student says he enjoys working with fashion and makeup, and has worn dresses to school events in the past, the station reported.
Reaction has been far from supportive on social media, however. Within minutes of the prom scenes being posted on Facebook, hundreds of critics began tearing into Bell, the school's staff and student body and the public education system as a whole.
It's the second time in the past two months Greenville’s Powdersville High has been in the spotlight for something controversial. In March, students there challenged the principal's decision not to allow them to participate in a nationwide protest on gun violence in schools.
"Was this a joke or for real?" asked Michele Ellenberg Brooks after seeing the prom photos on Facebook.
"It looks like the northern end of the county has leaped off the cliff of sanity," said one commenter on a social media page devoted to Bell's dress.
"The prom king and queen is an institution and has been part of the school curriculum for a very long time," posted Donna Coffey on Facebook. "(Bell) made a mockery of the entire concept, so why not have two queens that would have been appropriate."
"My heart is breaking to see what is happening to our children and young people," posted Rita Stinnett Howard on Facebook. "Society and our schools have brain washed our kids."
"I don't think people are offended as him dressing as a female as much as being crowned the king when presenting yourself as a female," posted Chris Busby.
Bell has acknowledged the backlash, telling TV station WSPA the comments were coming from adults in the community, and he found it inspiring that his fellow students were standing up to them. As a result, he told Fox Carolina that he has every intention of wearing a dress at graduation on May 24.
"I greatly appreciate all my friends and even people I haven't even talked to at the school who were standing up to the adults and even their own parents who would comment," Bell told WSPA. "Wearing a dress is like my version of dressing up, like most guys' version is wearing a tux."
Among those coming to his defense on social media are people like Maggi Imaizumi.
"Are you kidding me? He wore that dress better than I ever could have," she posted on Facebook. "If it makes you feel beautiful, you just go right ahead and screw people with negative close-minded views... It takes a lot of courage to be your authentic self."
"Good for this kid and kudos to Powdersville High School for showing some 21st Century class and acceptance," posted Heath Lane on Facebook.
"It's so refreshing to know that he is supported," posted Meredith Thomas. "His classmates knew that he'd be in drag and still voted for him. He can wear a dress and run for prom king. I think he looked beautiful. Adam is brave and an honor student. Keep shining!"