Judge recognises lesbian student`s rights to attend prom

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 21:26

New York: A school board in a US county
violated the rights of a lesbian student by cancelling a
pupils gathering after she sought permission to come with a
female date and dress in a tuxedo, a federal judge has ruled.

The Itawamba County school board in Mississippi had
cancelled a prom instead of allowing Constance McMillen to
accompany her female partner last month.
US District Court Judge Glen Davidson ruled that
McMillen`s rights were violated by the act but did not ask the
school board to reinstate the prom on April 2 because parents
were already arranging a private prom.

The American Civil Liberties Union had sued the district
to force it to put on the prom and allow McMillen to bring her
girlfriend and wear a tuxedo.

School officials however said in the court this week that
they decided to cancel it because McMillen`s challenge to the
rules had caused disruptions.

"It feels really good that the court realised that the
school was violating my rights and discriminating against me
by cancelling the prom.

"All I ever wanted was for my school to treat me and my
girlfriend like any other couple that wants to go to prom,"
said McMillen.

Earlier in March, McMillen, 18 and the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the board of Itawamba Agricultural
High School on the grounds that denying the request would be
violating the student`s freedom of expression rights.

The ACLU asked the court to reinstate the prom for all
students and charges that the First Amendment guarantees
students` right to bring same-sex dates to school dances.

Further, barring McMillen from wearing the dress of her
choice also violates her free expression rights, it said.
"The record shows Constance has been openly gay since
eighth grade and she intended to communicate a message by
wearing a tuxedo and to express her identity through attending
prom with a same-sex date," the judge wrote in a 12-page

A prom, short for promenade, is a formal dance or
gathering of high school students typically held at the end of
the junior or senior year.

"The Court finds this expression and communication of her
viewpoint is the type of speech that falls squarely within the
purview of the First Amendment," he added.

The court noted that since the "private prom" was being
organised by parents and was open to all students, it expected
McMillen and her girlfriend would be invited.

Another prom is also being organised by the Mississippi
Safe Schools Coalition, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian

"Today`s ruling isn`t just a win for Constance and her
girlfriend ? it`s a win for all the students at her school,
and for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students
who just want to be able to be themselves at school without
being treated unfairly," said Kristy Bennett, Legal Director
of the ACLU of Mississippi.

"Public schools can`t just stomp on students` free
expression rights just because they don`t want to deal with
these students, and if schools do try to do that they`ll be
dealing with us," she added.


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First Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 21:26

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