Every year, Fullerton Union High School senior boys take the stage for a mock beauty pageant. It's called the "Mr. Fullerton Competition," a fun-filled, comedic chance for the students to ham it up on stage.
"It's a big deal. A lot of people go. It's the highlight of the men's senior year," said Fullerton High senior Blake Danford.
One of the contestants in this year's pageant was Kearian Giertz. But it didn't take long for Giertz to get the boot from the school's assistant principal during a question-and-answer skit.
"My question was: Where do you think you will be in ten years' time?" said Giertz.
Giertz talked about being a successful dancer and winning awards.
"But I also added that hopefully I will be able to marry the person I choose," said Giertz. "In my case, a man."
Giertz, who is gay, was told he was disqualified for "going off script." He argued that most of the boys veered off their school-approved lines, but to no avail. That's when Giertz's friends decided to mount a social media campaign.
"I was incensed," said Danford. "I was outraged."
"We sat down in my kitchen and we just started writing down things on a notepad," said Fullerton High student Katy Hall.
"We created a Facebook page," said Danford.
They also handed out hundreds of letters to fellow students asking them to send letters to the school's assistant principal.
Wednesday, the Fullerton Joint Union High School District issued a written statement. It reads in part: "The District has concluded that the matter was not handled appropriately by the Assistant Principal. The District believes that the matter should have been handled privately with the student by the Assistant Principal."
Also Wednesday, the assistant principal met with Giertz and made a school-wide apology during the morning announcements. Danford recorded it.
Giertz says he feels the apology only addressed the technical reasons for his disqualification, and not the broader issues involved in the controversy.
"He basically disqualified me for being who I am in a competition that's about being who you are and being comfortable with who you are," said Giertz.
Eyewitness News calls to Assistant Principal Joe Abell were not returned before editing deadline. But the school district says Giertz OK'd Abell's apology beforehand. And Giertz's friends say instead of driving a wedge between students, the controversy has actually united the school.
"It's astounding how much everyone has banded together on this issue," said Danford.