"We'd Rather Cancel the Prom Than Let a Girl Bring a Female Date"
This is the sentiment evoked by one Mississippi school that, this week, decided to cancel its annual prom rather than let a young female student, who self-identifies as lesbian, bring her partner to the prom.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Itawamba County School District announced the cancellation of the Itawamba Agricultural High School (IAHS) prom dance for junior and senior students.
“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. The board made its decision after the ACLU of Mississippi had demanded a lesbian student be allowed to bring her girlfriend.
The student in question, Constance McMillen, 18, was informed by a February 5 memo to all students that dates must be "of the opposite sex." After appealing to the school, McMillen sort the ACLU's help, at which point the ACLU contacted the school, calling this a matter of fundamental rights:
“Ms. McMillen has informed us that IAHS's prom policy prohibits her from exercising her constitutional rights to bring a same-sex date,” the human rights group said in the letter. “As you know, students have the right under the First Amendment to bring a same-sex date to the prom.”
The school board has decided not to acquiesce and has instead said that it is the board's hope that students will hold a private dance. McMillen has said that she fears that this decision will impact her school life negatively:
"Oh, my God. That's really messed up because the message they are sending is that if they have to let gay people go to prom that they are not going to have one," she said. "A bunch of kids at school are really going to hate me for this.
McMillen is accurate in her assessment. The school board has chosen to subject McMillen to the hostility of her fellow classmates by canceling the prom rather than allowing her to attend with her girlfriend who also goes to the school. Either she now backs down, or she faces potential bullying and a negative school experience. What they have done shows a casual disregard for their responsibility toward McMillen as a pupil at the school, and their requirement to provide a safe and nurturing environment.
Essentially, they have failed her in this regard. And by casually brushing this off as "distractions to the educational process" they have overlooked what it is that they are teaching here: that discriminating against gay and lesbian people is acceptable.
Care2 has created a petition addressed to the school board that demands that they reverse their decision. Click here to sign it.