A Mississippi county school board announced Wednesday it would cancel its upcoming prom after a gay student petitioned to bring a same-sex date to the event.
-- From "Miss. prom canceled after lesbian's date request" by Chris Joyner, USA TODAY 3/11/10
"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 in a statement.
Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old senior at Itawamba, recently challenged a school policy prohibiting her from bringing her girlfriend as her date to the April 2 prom. McMillen, who is a lesbian, and the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union urged school officials to reverse the policy both on McMillen's choice of date and attire. She also wanted to wear a tuxedo to the dance.
ACLU attorney Christine Sun said her organization receives requests for help every year from students facing anti-gay prom policies. The complaints are especially prevalent in the South where attitudes toward sexuality are more conservative, she said.
In the announcement, the school board encouraged the community to organize a private prom. "It is our hope that private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors. "We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this causes anyone," the statement concluded. School officials did not respond to calls seeking comment.
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From "ACLU sues Mississippi school that canceled prom rather than let lesbian couple attend" News release from the ACLU 3/11/10
OXFORD, MS – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today against a Mississippi High School that has canceled prom rather than let a lesbian high school student attend the prom with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo to the event. In papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, the ACLU asks the court to reinstate the prom for all students at the school and charges Itawamba County School District officials are violating Constance McMillen’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
Today’s filing comes after Itawamba County School District issued a statement yesterday saying they were canceling prom, following a letter from the ACLU and the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition demanding that they reverse their decision. McMillen said that before that happened, school officials had told her that she could not arrive at the prom with her girlfriend, also a student at IAHS, and that they might be thrown out if any other students complained about their presence at the April 2 event.
The ACLU will ask the court in the next few days to grant McMillen a preliminary injunction ordering the school to reinstate the April 2 prom, let McMillen and her girlfriend go to the prom together, and let McMillen wear a tuxedo to the event.
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