The ACLU of Mississippi has reached an agreement with Copiah County School District following a legal dispute over student Ceara Sturgis’ photo being excluded from the senior portrait section of the yearbook simply because she posed in a tuxedo.
The district has now agreed on a new gender neutral policy that will require all students to wear a cap and gown rather than requiring boys to wear tuxedos and girls to wear drapes.
In addition to this, Sturgis’ photo will now feature in the class composite picture hanging in the school library and the school will also amend its anti-discrimination policy reaffirm its commitment to following the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“I am thrilled that my photo will join my classmates on the wall of our school library,” said Sturgis. “It’s important that nobody else will be forced to wear something that doesn’t reflect who they are.”
“Hopefully no other students will be excluded from this important rite of passage simply for expressing themselves,” said Bear Atwood, legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “Copiah County School District has done the right thing by changing the yearbook policy so no students have to feel as if they’re out of place.”
Sturgis, who was an honor student at Wesson Attendance Center in the district, is openly lesbian and has an established history of wearing what has traditionally been classed as “male” attire. Until the portrait incident she had received no difficulty surrounding her gender expression at school.
However, when it came to have her formal senior portrait taken for the 2009-2010 yearbook and Sturgis, then 17, opted to wear a tuxedo rather than a drape that would give the appearance of wearing a dress of blouse, the school refused to publish her photo and name in the senior portrait section of the year book.
“We’re glad that a resolution has been reached and that Ceara’s photo will be included in the school library along with the photos of the rest of her classmates,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “All students deserve to attend school in a setting that lets them be comfortable being themselves.”
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