This is the sentiment evoked by one Mississippi school that, this week, decided to cancel its annual prom rather than let a young female student, who self-identifies as lesbian, bring her partner to the prom.
On Top Magazine reports:
In a statement released Wednesday, the Itawamba County School District announced the cancellation of the Itawamba Agricultural High School (IAHS) prom dance for junior and senior students.
“Due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events, the Itawamba County School District has decided to not host a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School this year,” school board members said. The board made its decision after the ACLU of Mississippi had demanded a lesbian student be allowed to bring her girlfriend.
The student in question, Constance McMillen, 18, was informed by a February 5 memo to all students that dates must be “of the opposite sex.” McMillen was also told that if she arrived separately but then slow-danced with her girlfriend, she and her partner could be asked to leave the dance. Officials also told McMillen she would not be able to wear a tuxedo to the event. After appealing to the school, McMillen sort the help of the ACLU, at which point the ACLU contacted the school, calling this a matter of fundamental rights:
“Ms. McMillen has informed us that IAHS’s prom policy prohibits her from exercising her constitutional rights to bring a same-sex date,” the human rights group said in the letter. “As you know, students have the right under the First Amendment to bring a same-sex date to the prom.”
The school board decided not to grant this request and has instead said that it is the board’s hope that students will hold a private dance.
Meanwhile, Constance McMillen has responded to the school board’s actions by saying that she fears that this decision will impact her school life negatively:
“Oh, my God. That’s really messed up because the message they are sending is that if they have to let gay people go to prom that they are not going to have one,” she said. “A bunch of kids at school are really going to hate me for this.
McMillen is accurate in her assessment. The school board has chosen to subject McMillen to the hostility of her fellow classmates by canceling the prom rather than allowing her to attend with her girlfriend who also goes to the school. Either she now backs down, or she faces potential bullying and a negative school experience. What the board has done shows a casual disregard for their responsibility toward McMillen as a pupil at the school, and their requirement to provide a safe and nurturing environment.
Essentially, they have failed her in this regard. And by brushing this off as “distractions to the educational process” they have overlooked what it is that they are teaching here: that discriminating against gay and lesbian people is acceptable.
The ACLU has now sent a further letter asking the board to reconsider its decision. As yet, the school board has not responded.
UPDATE 1: THE ACLU has filed a complaint in federal court stating that the board’s actions are a direct violation of Constance McMillen’s rights. You can read more about the complaint by clicking here.
UPDATE 2: Sean Cummings, a New Orleans hotel owner, has offered to host the prom for Ms. McMillen and her peers. You can read more here.
UPDATE 3 – New Blog Post! A Thank You from Constance McMillen.
UPDATE 4 – 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.