Philipp Penning, a 16-year-old student at Charlton School, in Telford, Shropshire, has amazed his classmates and teachers after winning the right to wear a ‘dress’ on his last day of school.
Initially, staff at Charlton School had denied Philipp Penning’s outfit request for his leaving day assembly, but the decision was overturned after an army of angry pupils signed a petition in Philipp’s support.
On Friday, May 12, the teen boy confidently walked in to the packed assembly – dressed in towering black heels, a red dress and black wig where he performed to ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor, amid rousing cheers and applause from staff and pupils.
Philipp’s friends showed him great support by launching a petition to overturn his ban. A Facebook group and website, ‘Justice for Philipp’ was also set up.
The school staff were forced to overturn the ban less than 24 hours later after Philipp presented them with 283 signatures of support. A post on the website read:
“Philipp was told he was not allowed to wear a dress to school because it was ‘informal’ and ‘unrespectable’.
“The student body set up a petition that received over 250 signatures from the other students.
“They took this to the principal who changed his mind.
“On Friday, May 12, Philipp wore the dress and looked fabulous doing it.”
Philipp said he was very nervous before the show, adding that his friends calmed him down and helped him come up with the start of the routine, everything else was improvised.
“Everyone was really positive afterwards. They were all so proud of me and I can’t be more thankful.
“My fellow pupils were beyond supportive – every single one of them stood behind me and even set up a Facebook page.
“A few even came with me to argue my case to the teacher. I owe everything to the students of Charlton School.”
Philipp Penning who is hoping to study for a career in geography also paid tribute to his mum Michelle, who has been a pillar of support – even doing his make-up on the day.
“The most supportive person of all was my mother. She has always had my back and even helped me with my make up in the morning.”
Speaking of how amazed she was that so many young people had supported Philipp, his mum Michele said:
“I am so very proud of my child and support him every step of the way. I am completely amazed that so many young people have come together to support a fellow student.
“Slowly but surely we are becoming more accepting, tolerant and free to be who we want to be. I am very proud of my young man and happy that he has the confidence to express himself.”
Moreover, Charlton School’s principal, Andy McNaughton said Philipp Penning’s outfit was in line with the aims of the Leavers’ Day event which was a huge success.
“The dress code for Leavers’ Day on Friday was that pupils should wear smart clothes but non-uniform.
“The pupil in question approached staff earlier in the week asking if he could wear drag. He was told it was fine to come into school wearing a dress but that we did not want him to wear full drag, as that wouldn’t have been consistent with the aims of the day.
“It appears that advice has been misinterpreted resulting in the petition. However there was no need for this as we had already told him a dress was acceptable.
“In the event, what the pupil wore was in keeping with the aims of the day, which was a huge success. All our pupils looked very smart,” McNaughton said.