Last week, many were shocked and dismayed to hear that the Itawamba County School District, of Fulton, Mississippi, had canceled the district’s April 2 prom because Constance McMillen, a senior at the school, had asked that she be allowed to bring her girlfriend to the dance. With the help of the ACLU, Ms. McMillen is now suing the school for what she feels is a clear infringement of her rights and an act of blatant discrimination.
Members of the Care2 community joined thousands of others across America in asking that the prom be reinstated and that Ms. McMillen be allowed to attend the prom with her girlfriend.
As such, Constance McMillen has recorded a special message for everyone who has supported her in her legal fight:
While the grassroots effort to have the prom reinstated was growing in both size and strength, a number of high profiled offers of support for McMillen’s cause began to surface.
If you haven’t seen it already, the video below shows Constance McMillen being interviewed on CBS, and it may be of interest. In the video, McMillen discusses the events that led to the prom being called off, and also mentions what it was like for her to return to school after the district had decided to cancel the prom:
As an aside, I know many of you were concerned about McMillen’s welfare following the school district’s decision. While the response of her fellow classmates has been mixed, as this report demonstrates, it appears as though Ms. McMillen has firm support in her home life:
McMillen said she didn’t want to go back to the high school in Fulton the morning after the decision, but her father told her she needed to face her classmates.
“My daddy told me that I needed to show them that I’m still proud of who I am,” McMillen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “The fact that this will help people later on, that’s what’s helping me to go on.”
During the course of the last week, several offers have been made by business owners who are more than willing to host the prom should the dance not be reinstated. USA Today reports:
As news of the board’s decision spread across the nation, Matthew Sheffield of the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition said his office was flooded by people looking to help.
“We have so many people willing to donate money, resources, time,” he said. “We are trying to figure out what we are going to do.”
Among those is New Orleans hotel owner Sean Cummings, who offered to transport the students by bus from the northeast Mississippi city and host the prom at one his properties free of charge.
Film director Paul Saltzman offered to provide a screening of his movie Prom Night in Mississippi as part of the entertainment at a private prom for the students. The documentary, shot in 2008, is about the first racially integrated prom at Charleston High School in North Mississippi.
Meanwhile, Constance McMillen recently made an appearance on The Wanda Sykes Show. You can read more about what went on – including Wanda’s special gift to McMillan – by going here.
However, others have chosen to show their support for the school district’s decision:
Fulton Mayor Paul Walker said he supports the school district’s decision and knew of no private efforts to host the prom.
“I think the community as a whole is probably in support of the school district,” Walker said of the town of about 4,000.
Southside Baptist Church Pastor Bobby Crenshaw said he’s seen the South portrayed as “backwards” on Web sites discussing the issue, “but a lot more people here have biblically based values.”
Politically, Ms. McMillen’s story has not gone unnoticed either. Representative Jared Polis has expressed his dismay over the district’s actions:
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said a bill he’s introduced in Congress would protect students such as McMillen. Polis said the measure would make it illegal to discriminate against gay and lesbian school students. He said his bill is modeled after similar laws in at least 10 states…
“This situation with the prom is a perfect example of why we need to protect students from discrimination. In this case it’s a prom. It other cases, it’s getting beaten up or killed,” Polis said.
Polis said he was “dismayed” by the school board’s action.
“They ruined the prom, not only for this young woman, but for all of the straight kids at the school,” he said.
The legislation Rep. Polis refers to is the the federal Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R.4350) that aims to curb violence against students who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The legislation is also designed to ban public schools from discriminating on the basis of a student’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
You can find out more about the federal Student Non-Discrimination Act by clicking here.
Finally, the ACLU’s request for an injunction to have the prom reinstated is expected to be heard within the next seven days, with both sides hoping for a quick resolution. As soon as we receive word on this decision, I shall update this post.
UPDATE: The hearing for McMillen’s case is scheduled for Monday next week according to Advocate.com. The Advocate also relates that:
“In the court documents, McMillen said Rick Mitchell, the assistant principal at the school, told her she could not attend the prom with her girlfriend but they could go with ‘guys,’” reported the AP. “Superintendent Teresa McNeece told the teen that the girls should attend the prom separately, had to wear dresses and couldn’t slow dance with each other because that could ‘push people’s buttons,’ according to court documents.”
UPDATE – New Blog Post! Parents Organize a Private Prom but Exclude Lesbian Teenager.
UPDATE (24 March, 2010) – New Blog Post! A Tale of Two Proms: Court Rules in Favor of McMillen, Georgia Teen Kicked Out of Home Over Gay Prom Date
You can also contact the school directly and let them know you support Constance McMillen’s right to bring her date to the prom. Click here for more information. A big thank you to reader Melissa Elaine Gacuzana for pointing to this action.
Thank you to all those who have already taken action.
Care2 Related Petitions:
Support the Safe Schools Improvement Act
Photo taken from the ACLU video, no infringement intended.