The Itawamba County School District in rural Mississippi agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Constance McMillen, a gay teen who wasn’t permitted to bring her girlfriend to the high school prom.
The District cancelled the Itawamba Agricultural High School prom after McMillen challenged rules that prohibited same-sex dates and allowed only boys to wear tuxedos. Parents and school officials later put on another prom, but the ACLU claimed that was just a cruel plan to get McMillen to attend a sham prom while her classmates attended a private event 30 miles away.
In March 2010, a federal court ruled that the School District violated McMillen’s First Amendment rights by cancelling the prom to prevent her from attending with her girlfriend. In settling the lawsuit, the District agreed to implement a policy that banned discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Undaunted by the school district's cancellation of the prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School, students and parents joined forces and have scheduled several proms for Friday, April 2, 2010. One prom, which will be held at the Fulton Country Club, was planned by students.
Constance McMillen, the Itawamba Agricultural High School student whose plan to take her girlfriend to the school's prom led the school district to cancel the prom, has said she'll go to the student-organized prom with a female date, and perhaps even her father or a bodyguard.
One student-organizer said he and other classmates disagree over whether McMillen or the school district should be blamed for the prom's cancellation. Generally, though, students have had enough of the nationwide controversy and debate. And, apparently, everyone's ready to dance.
Prom is a big night for a lot of seniors. After all, it's the last "hurrah!" of a four-year trek through high school. The last dance may have happened already at one high school in Jackson, Mississippi, though.
Same-Sex Prom Date
Like thousands of high schools across the US, Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi was gearing up for prom. So were the students, especially the seniors, including Constance McMillen. Unlike most students at the school, however, McMillen wasn't planning on the "traditional" prom date.
McMillen, a lesbian, planned on wearing a tuxedo and taking her girlfriend to the dance. Apparently, the Itawamba County School District didn't like her idea. According to McMillen, she was told by school officials she couldn't bring her girlfriend to the dance. In addition, she was told they'd likely be thrown out of the dance if they arrived separately and slow-danced together.
McMillen contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for help. The ACLU sent a letter demanding McMillen be allowed to wear a tux and bring her girlfriend to the prom. The school district responded by canceling the prom.
The ACLU countered by filing a lawsuit in federal court. As part of the suit, the ACLU is asking for a court order (called an "injunction") requiring the school to reinstate the prom and let McMillen wear a tux and escort her girlfriend to it. The court will decide on the injunction on March 22.