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PORTSIDE  July 2010, Week 3

PORTSIDE July 2010, Week 3

Subject:

Victory for Lesbian Teenager Denied Prom in Mississippi

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Date:

Wed, 21 Jul 2010 20:48:27 -0400

Content-Type:

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text/plain (138 lines)

Mississippi School Agrees To Revise Policy And Pay Damages To Lesbian Teenager Denied Chance To Attend Prom 

July 20, 2010
American Civil Liberties Union
http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/mississippi-school-agrees-revise-policy-and-pay-damages-lesbian-teenager-denied-chance-a

Agreement Marks First School Policy Protecting LGBT Students In Mississippi

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
CONTACT: [log in to unmask] (212) 549-2666

ABERDEEN, MS - Itawamba County School District
officials agreed to have a judgment entered against
them in the case of a recent high school graduate who
sued her school for canceling the prom rather than let
her attend with her girlfriend. The agreement ends a
precedent-setting lawsuit brought by the American Civil
Liberties Union on behalf of 18-year-old Constance
McMillen, who suffered humiliation and harassment after
parents, students and school officials executed a cruel
plan to put on a "decoy" prom for her while the rest of
her classmates were at a private prom 30 miles away.

"I'm so glad this is all over. I won't ever get my prom
back, but it's worth it if it changes things at my
school," said McMillen, who was harassed so badly by
students blaming her for the prom cancellation that she
had to transfer to another high school to finish her
senior year. "I hope this means that in the future
students at my school will be treated fairly. I know
there are students and teachers who want to start a
gay-straight alliance club, and they should be able to
do that without being treated like I was by the
school."

As set forth in documents filed in court today, school
officials agreed to implement a policy banning
discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual
orientation and gender identity, the first policy to do
so at a public school in the state of Mississippi. The
school also agreed to pay McMillen $35,000 in damages
and pay for McMillen's attorneys' fees.

"Constance went through a great deal of harassment and
humiliation simply for standing up for her rights, and
she should be proud of what she has accomplished," said
Christine P. Sun, senior counsel with the ACLU Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. "Thanks to her
bravery, we now not only have a federal court precedent
that can be used to protect the rights of students all
over the country to bring the date they want to their
proms, but we also have the first school anti-
discrimination policy of its kind in Mississippi."

In addition to today's legal judgment against the
school, an earlier ruling in the case set an important
precedent that will help prevent other students from
suffering the kind of discrimination McMillen
experienced. In March, the U.S. District Court for the
Northern District of Mississippi issued a ruling in
McMillen's case that school officials violated
McMillen's First Amendment rights when it canceled the
high school prom rather than let McMillen attend with
her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo.

"We're pleased that the school district agreed to be
held liable for violating Constance's rights. Now
Constance can move on with her life and Itawamba school
officials can show the world that they have learned a
lesson about equal treatment for all students," said
Kristy L. Bennett, co-counsel on McMillen's case. "This
has been about much more than just the prom all along -
it's about all of our young people deserving to be
treated fairly by the schools we trust to take care of
them."

After IAHS's original prom date was canceled by school
officials in response to McMillen's request that she be
allowed to bring her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo,
parents organized a private prom at which district
officials told a federal judge McMillen and her date
would be welcome. That private prom was then canceled
as well, allegedly because parents did not want to
allow McMillen to attend, instead organizing a "decoy"
prom for McMillen and her date and another prom for the
rest of the class. McMillen and her date then attended
the event the school had told her was "the prom for
juniors and seniors" on April 2, where they found only
seven other students attending. Principal Trae Wiygul
and several school staff members were supervising that
event while most of McMillen's classmates were at the
other prom in Evergreen, Mississippi.

"We hope this judgment sends a message to schools that
they cannot get away with discriminating against
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. LGBT
youth just want to be treated like their peers and do
all the normal high school things, like going to the
prom with the date they choose," said Bear Atwood,
Interim Legal Director at the ACLU of Mississippi.
"We're very proud of Constance for standing up not just
for her rights but the rights of LGBT students
everywhere."

McMillen is represented by Sun, Bennett and Atwood, as
well as by Norman C. Simon, Joshua Glick and Jason Moff
of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, and Alysson
Mills of New Orleans.

The case name is Constance McMillen v. Itawamba County
School District, et al. Additional information is
available at
www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/fulton-ms-prom-discrimination.

There is also a Facebook group for people who want to
support McMillen, "Let Constance Bring Her Girlfriend
to the Prom," at
www.facebook.com/pages/Let-Constance-Take-Her-Girlfriend-to-Prom/357686784817. 

Published on American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org) 

Source URL:
http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/mississippi-school-agrees-revise-policy-and-pay-damages-lesbian-teenager-denied-chance-a

_____________________________________________

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to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

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