START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
781,804 people care about Civil Rights

ACLU’s Amended Complaint Alleges Teens Took to Facebook to Wish Constance McMillen Dead

ACLU’s Amended Complaint Alleges Teens Took to Facebook to Wish Constance McMillen Dead

Readers will no doubt be familiar with the Constance McMillen story. Itawamba County High School canceled its prom event rather than allow McMillen, 18, to bring her female date and wear a tuxedo. McMillen, with the help of the ACLU, sued.

The latest twist in the tale occurred earlier this month when news emerged that appeared to show that parents and students had organized a “fake” and sparsely attended prom event to ostracize McMillen and her girlfriend further while the “real” prom was being held some 30 miles away.

At the time, the ACLU said that they were greatly concerned by this turn of events and would be investigating if school officials were involved in any way. They also indicated that because they believed that these actions were a direct consequence of the school having canceled the original prom, details of what transpired would also feature as part of the pending court case.

Today, the ACLU filed its amended complaint, which includes information on the “malicious” treatment Constance has faced since the original preliminary court decision and the harassment she has been subjected to by her classmates who, among other things, have allegedly taken to social networking sites to bully her.

From the ACLU press release (emphasis mine):

April 21, 2010

New Information Revealed In Constance McMillen Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ABERDEEN, MS – The American Civil Liberties Union filed legal papers today in federal court on behalf of lesbian high school student Constance McMillen regarding a cruel plan to put on a “decoy” prom for her while the rest of her classmates were at a private prom 30 miles away. The amended complaint alleges that the district’s violation of the free speech rights of McMillen, an 18-year-old high school senior who sued her school for canceling the prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend, have repeatedly caused McMillen to be humiliated and harassed.

“I really hoped that prom night would make all that I’ve been through worth it, then April 2 came and those hopes went out the window,” said McMillen. “All I ever wanted was to go to my school prom with my classmates and my date, like anyone else, and instead I was the target of a mean, nasty joke.”

On March 23, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi issued a preliminary ruling in McMillen’s case that school officials violated McMillen’s First Amendment rights when it canceled the high school prom rather than let McMillen attend with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo. The court stopped short of ordering Itawamba Agricultural High School (IAHS) to put the school prom back on the calendar relying on assurances that an alternative “private” prom being planned by parents would be open to all students, including McMillen.

However, according to legal papers, at a meeting with school officials, parents then decided to cancel that private prom without notifying McMillen because they did not want to allow McMillen to attend, instead organizing a “decoy” prom for McMillen and her date and still another prom for the rest of the class. McMillen and her date then attended the event the school had told her was “the prom for juniors and seniors” on April 2, where they found only seven other students attending. Principal Trae Wiygul and several school staff members were supervising that event while most of McMillen’s classmates were at the other prom in Evergreen, Mississippi.

“Constance is a very brave young woman, and she has suffered tremendously because of the animosity and hate she’s felt coming from her classmates and her community which the school’s actions have encouraged,” said Kristy Bennett, Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “Even after a federal court found that the school violated her constitutional rights, an 18-year-old girl has been made the scapegoat and an outsider in the town where she’s lived all her life. For the school to subject Constance to this type of hostility is simply inexcusable.”

Today’s amended complaint contains new details about events that have taken place since the ACLU first filed McMillen’s case on March 11, including about the way her classmates have treated her. Most of McMillen’s classmates no longer speak to her, and some have posted Facebook messages saying they wish she were dead and sent her such text messages as, “I don’t know why you come to this school because no one likes your gay ass anyways.” In response to the court’s March 23 order, the complaint also adds a request for compensatory damages for an amount to be determined later at trial.

“After the court ruled that IAHS acted illegally when it canceled the prom, we hoped that Constance would be able to attend the private prom without further incident,” said Christine P. Sun, Senior Counsel with the ACLU national LGBT Project, who represents McMillen along with the ACLU of Mississippi. “But instead there was a malicious plan to further ostracize and humiliate her. It is hard to conceive of adults behaving in such a cruel way.”

McMillen is represented by Bennett and Sun, as well as by Norman C. Simon, Joshua Glick, and Jason Moff of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, and Alysson Mills of New Orleans.

The case name is Constance McMillen v. Itawamba County School District , et al. Additional information is available at www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/fulton-ms-prom-discrimination. There is also a Facebook group for people who want to support McMillen, “Let Constance Bring Her Girlfriend to the Prom,” at www.facebook.com/pages/Let-Constance-Take-Her-Girlfriend-to-Prom/357686784817.

Since Constance’s battle first became public, she has been courted by various high profiled causes and organizations. She recently spoke to LGBT teens at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian center while on a visit with the ACLU. In March she was also presented with a $30,000 college scholarship on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” on behalf of the website Tonic.com, and was invited to the GLAAD media awards in Los Angeles last Saturday night to present a special award to stand-up comedian and actress Wanda Sykes, where she also received a standing ovation. You can watch Constance give her speech and present the award in the video below:

It has also been confirmed that members of the band Green Day, along with former boy band member Lance Bass and “Iron Chef” star Cat Cora, have agreed to sponsor a “second chance” prom for McMillen on May 8 in Tupelo, Mississippi. The event is open to all, but is especially concerned with providing a safe and enjoyable night for LGBT teens. The American Humanist Association is also sponsoring the event and is reportedly contributing $20,000.

Finally, it has been announced that McMillen will lead the New York City gay pride parade on June 27.

Related Care2 Petition:

Support the Student Non-Discrimination Act to ensure that public schools do not discriminate against students on the basis of their LGBT identity.

Related Posts on this Story:


Read more: , , , , , , , , , ,


Photo taken from ACLU website under Fair Use, no infringement intended.

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

62 comments

+ add your own
1:32AM PDT on Jun 15, 2010

Thanks.

1:16AM PDT on May 15, 2010

it is an honour to read comments from intelligent and tolerant people!i am enjoying reading the comments of "you guys"!maria robbins

3:26PM PDT on May 5, 2010

Constance represents more than just not being allowed to bring her girlfriend to prom but she represent LGBT student rights all across the country.

5:28AM PDT on May 1, 2010

Coming from a farming community myself, it doesn't surprise me that Constance had others tell her that they "wish she were dead" because she doesn't conform to their belief that she should have a boyfriend and have him keep her "barefoot and pregnant". I've had others harrass me because I don't have a boyfriend. Some people can't accept the fact that other people have certain characteristics about them that they can't help, didn't ask for, and can't change no matter how hard they try. It's futile and useless to expect such changes. Live and let live. A person's happiness should be first and foremost.

10:57AM PDT on Apr 30, 2010

Living very close to the area, this is a regular subject of debate in Memphis. Being the eldest sister to a lesbian in a lifelong commitment to my sister in law I am hurt by the behavior of the parents and administrators, though not surprised. In the South we say that we "wear our eccentricities with pride and place the family eccentrics in the basement". This is why "coming out" is so shocking to some. Every family has a relative that was considered "fancy" and in speaking with many fellow Southerners, the opinion is that since we do not speak of our heterosexual relations why "come out" when homosexual. I do not know as I have not been in my sister's shoes. I love her and held her hand as she came out to our folks so I really don't care why! My fervent hope is that one day we will be able to see each other as humans; not gay, Yankee, Rebel, religious, athiest, brunette or blonde.

9:33AM PDT on Apr 30, 2010

Because, Dianne, Constance is a homosexual and her friends are not...which means they give themselves the pleasure of ostracizing her. It IS about sex and it IS about their ideas of religion.

6:23PM PDT on Apr 29, 2010

Can't we all just get along? Everything is sexual now. Back in the 40's girls went to the prom with other girls if they didn't have a date. They even dance with each other. Old ladies still dance with eah other. It's a way to celebrtate life and there is nothing sexual about it at all.

11:49AM PDT on Apr 28, 2010

Very well said Pam W.

Here's some quotes from my favorite writer/blogger Greta Christina
"There is a big difference between criticizing an idea, and being disrespectful or intolerant of a person. And that's just as true for religion as anything else. It's not intolerant for atheists to say we think religion is mistaken... any more than it's intolerant to say any idea is mistaken. "

"It is no more disrespectful to criticize religious beliefs than it is to criticize political ideas, scientific theories, or any other hypotheses about how the world works. That's how good ideas get refined and bad ideas get weeded out -- through public debate and vigorous questioning and criticism."

"The idea that it's rude to criticize religion is one of the central pieces of armor protecting religion against legitimate questions. Religion is a hypothesis about the world, and it is no more rude to criticize it in the public square than it is to criticize any other hypothesis."

11:22AM PDT on Apr 28, 2010

Fa'izah says..."Everyone has the right to live life as s/he chooses but that doesn't mean that others need to be openly accepting of it just merely respect it."

You know--I get weary of this business about "respect" for peoples' religious prejudices and beliefs.

Do I have to "respect" practitioners of Santeria who slaughter animals in their rituals?

Do I have to "respect" Muslims who mutilate their daughters' genitals to "circumcize" them?

Do I have to "respect" fundamentalists who seek to impose their beliefs into my reproductive life?

If someone tells me he honestly believes in an invisible supernatural unicorn who murders children whenever it suits him, slaughters innocents, kills a planet-full of animals and innocent people, am I supposed to think he's insane? Or am I supposed to "respect" him because it's a "religion?"

8:09PM PDT on Apr 27, 2010

except when it comes to these 2 issues - Same sex marriage/homosexuality & abortion. Then they are all for government getting involved.

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

I did not know all of this about moths. It was a very interesting article, with good pictures.

meet our writers

Steve Williams Steve Williams is a passionate supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) rights, human... more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free

more from causes

Animal Welfare

Causes Canada

Causes UK

Children

Civil Rights

Education

Endangered Wildlife

Environment & Wildlife

Global Development

Global Warming

Health Policy

Human Rights

LGBT rights

Politics

Real Food

Trailblazers For Good

Women's Rights




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.