11/02/1992 at 01:00 AM EST
GRANTED, APRIL SCHULDT WASN'T EVERYONE'S idea of the perfect candidate for Homecoming Queen at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wis. The 17-year-old is unmarried and five months pregnant. She dresses in dark, baggy layers with combat boots and lots of rings. She prefers dark eye makeup and purple-black lipstick and shaves her bright red hair up the sides. Still, April is popular with her senior classmates, and she won the election fair and square by more than 30 votes. By rights, she should have presided over Homecoming on Oct. 2.
But the course of democracy does not always run smoothly. Some school officials decided that the punky and pregnant April could not properly represent Memorial's 1,800 students. Instead they announced that runner-up Elizabeth Weld, who was unaware of the scheme, was the winner. "If I hadn't won, that would have been fine with me," says April, a B student. "But they look it away from me."
Tipped off by a friend that she'd been robbed, April confronted the school's principal, Charles Zielin, on Friday, Oct. 2—Homecoming Day. "He acted real shocked and said he'd do a thorough investigation," she says. She and 10 friends protested peacefully at that afternoon's pep rally.
The local papers picked up the story, and on Monday, School Superintendent Lee Hansen launched an investigation of the vote. His report, released Oct. 8, proved perhaps the best lesson in civics the seniors at Memorial High will ever get. Wrote Hansen: "In trying to protect the traditional image of Memorial High School, these individuals trampled all over a far more precious tradition—that of the democratic process." Within a week, principal Zielin had resigned, and four other officials had been disciplined. April, who has no plans to marry her baby's father but who does plan to become a teacher one day, is still awaiting an apology. "It's not about a crown," she says. "They trampled on my rights and the rights of all the kids to vote."