March 11th, 2010
03:06 PM ET

Prom canceled over lesbian student

Constance McMillen

A Mississippi High School faces a lawsuit over its decision to cancel its prom rather than allow a lesbian high school student attend with her girlfriend.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleges that officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, are violating the student's First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

The ACLU asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi to reinstate the prom.

"All I wanted was the same chance to enjoy my prom night like any other student. But my school would rather hurt all the students than treat everyone fairly," said the student, 18-year-old Constance McMillen, in an ACLU news release. "This isn't just about me and my rights anymore – now I'm fighting for the right of all the students at my school to have our prom."

Officials at the Itawamba County School District were not immediately available for comment.

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Filed under: Gay and lesbian • U.S.
soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. Stephanie

    She wasn't trying to CRASH or RUIN everybody else's prom, she was trying to ATTEND her own! Going to prom is one of many things treated as a rite of passage in high school, and bringing a date is customary; if the same girls had been attending with male dates, they would have been allowed, but this is clearly discrimination. You can say that "those are the rules," and if it were a private school they could maybe get away with it, but at a public school it is not okay for those to be the rules!

    March 13, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. josh

    These edicators are real bright.
    Now, instead of being in supervised care of the school, the kids will have one more night free and a lot of angst.
    SO can we imagine what the will do with no place to go, no structured event, and a lot of hostility towards the school? Directly to a field, with a few kegs, bags of doap and a stereo. As a community we should try and minimize the students chances for these parties. How do they get home from unsacntioned ragers like this? They drive. Hopefully the students have more common sense then the administarots.
    Oh, and by the way, she gay. SO WHAT????!

    March 13, 2010 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. mm

    "Or you could just agree to not take a girl to the prom so that all the other children can enjoy their opportunity to experience a time-honored tradition."

    Yeah, and Rosa Parks should have just sat is her regular spot so all the other bus riders could enjoy their bus ride, too.

    The school board is the body which ruined the prom, NOT this girl! Put the blame where it belongs – the school board should have allowed "the children to enjoy their opportunity to experience a time-honored tradition" and THEY chose to cancel it and ruin it for everyone.

    March 13, 2010 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. Cozica

    If I was a parent of any of these kids I would be outraged they cancelled my child's prom just because some bigoted, prejudiced idiots made a decision that to keep a lesbian (God forbid!) out of the prom, they will avoid the whole issue and cancel the whole thing. What a load of crap. I want to see the parents yelling at the schools. This is the same state who cancelled a prom because of multi-racial dating a few years ago, No wonder they have one of the lowest per capita incomes in the country – they are totally ignorant and predjudiced. I'm sure not everyone is this way in Mississippi but the few are representing the many in this case and this is what is exposed to the rest of the world.

    March 13, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dana

    Why did she have to ASK to bring a date in the first place? Did the other heterosexual students tell the school who they were bringing? Or is it just because she is a lesbian. She should be able to bring whomever she wants.
    This is ridiculous. I cannot believe all fo the comments from people who are trying to put the blame on this girl.
    You all think that a prom is more important than this girl's rights.
    If it were my prom, I wouldn't go if one of my fellow students was being treated this way.

    March 13, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. Chap

    Brown – How is she "waving her sexual preference" in anyone's face? I guess we all do the same when we go out with our significant other.
    And you say it makes no difference to you who anyone prefers – as long as they don't dare show themselves in public, right?
    It seems when you see a same sex couple you immediately focus on the "sex act" part of it. Weird. There's a lot more to relationships than that.

    March 13, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. steve

    Too many here aren't seeing the big picture. What it comes down to is the school making itself vulnerable to law suits.

    If they backed down and let her come they would open themselves to law suits from the community which when all is said and done probably wouldn't have held up in court. That doesn't mean they wouldn't have had to spend countless tax payers dollars on it to fight it.

    Or they could have denied her entry based on the reason she's a lesbian and they don't want same sex dates. They would have opened themselves up for a lawsuit from this girl and the ACLU.

    The thinking had to be, "Fine, she wants it her way and we can't please her and the community. Her actions coming before the school and openly and verbally undermining the authority of the school has brought various disruptions to classrooms and this is becoming such a heated debate that we are going to cancel the event all together. This will avoid us having to ban her for the communities sake and we won't be singling her out because all will be treated the same. If the community wants they can hold an event with their own rules."

    Now it hasn't gone the way they had planned but she could have simply said ok, abide by their ruling and fought it in court. Instead like a little kid she throws a fit, she wants an answer now before prom because she wants to attend. This is understandable to a degree. She doesn't want to miss out on prom. Even if the authority is being misused or abused, even if her rights are being infringed there is a system set up to deal with those accusations. There are other more diplomatic alternatives. Had she chosen some of those the prom may have not been canceled.

    The end result will probably be no matter what the outcome is that in the years to follow the school will not have any functions like this at all. So the cost of her getting her personal freedom to be able to go to a dance with her date will be no student ever enjoying a prom again at that school. I don't know maybe it's better that way. At least she'll have prom.

    March 13, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. glenn

    My high school (private prep school) was so small and so cheap they didn't have a prom. The graduating class rented a hall and had our own. Maybe those kids should think about doing the same thing. The school isn't required to hold a prom, so I can understand why they chose to avoid the issue completely.

    March 13, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jay

    As a gay man that grew up in Mississippi in the 1980's I couldn't be more proud of this young woman. It would have been unthinkable in my time and still takes enormous courage. What some people fail to realize is that there is no choice in your sexual orientation. To deny her the ability to bring another young woman is asking her to deny who she is. It hurts no body to allow her to be who she is but it does hurt her and so many others to be forced to hide who they are. We have got to grow and educate ourselves and stop punishing an entire class of people who are no more capable of changing their sexual orientation than you are.

    March 13, 2010 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Minnesota Mom

    Live and let live! That's America!

    March 13, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. fine_with_me

    reminds me of when they had separate proms for whites and blacks in highschool.

    March 13, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  12. sybok

    Let's change the equation. If the girl was white, and she was bringing a black male date, and this was 1961, would the reaction be the same?

    March 13, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. Crissy Martin

    She ruined the prom by being selfish. Should have stayed under the radar. Better yet realize women are meant to be with men. Very satisfying and the parts all fit nicely! The Creator’s will.

    March 13, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. Nikitalynn

    I have issue with the out of date policy of the girl-guy date to go to prom. Most of the kids at my high school prom went in big groups of girls and guys. It took the pressure off of about prom. If a bunch of girls want to go to prom in a big group whether they are gay or not they should be able. Finding a data is hard in high school and not having a date of the opposite sex should not prevent someone from going. I fought for the change in the policy at my school not because of gay rights but I wanted to open prom up to every senior who was willing to spend the money to go. We double the number of kids who went because more kids who couldn’t find dates got to go.

    March 13, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. MFisher put the prom back on but due to the money having to be spent by the school system make it the cheapest punch bowl event ever>>>>don't waste one more second of the tax payers money to drag this out in court. Do not give her one more second of publicity and do not give her a single dime. She's allowed her right to her own sexuality but frankly I don't care..put the prom back on and never make me hear about her again. Things were always based on the traditional concept in America and there will have to be changes made over time but picking battles is important. If she can go to prom with her girlfriend then by the same account all gay couples can attend, all transexual high school students can attend, all cross dressing students, all 18 yr olds who are dating felons etc etc. Just remember that fair is fair. Then see what parents say and how many people will stop going to the prom.

    March 13, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
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