Mississippi School District Settles With Lesbian Student Over Cancelled Prom

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2010

Fulton, Mississippi’s nickname of “the world’s cruelest town” was well-earned when Itawamba Agricultural High School student Constance McMillen was denied her prom. When the school learned that Constance planned to bring her girlfriend to the prom, they canceled it. Then parents organized a private prom and at first refused to tell her where it was taking place. Then they invited her to that private prom at the country club, only to organize a double-secret private prom elsewhere. This left Constance and her girlfriend with a half dozen developmentally disabled students at the country club wondering where everyone went.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the school district over this outrageous behavior by so-called adults. Today the ACLU announced a settlement:

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.

L. Junius Brutus

July 20th, 2010

Good result, although it remains to be seen whether the bigots who run the school will actually enforce the discrimination/harassment prohibitions.

Lindoro Almaviva

July 20th, 2010

Congrats to Constance.

Soren456

July 20th, 2010

She still didn’t get her picture in the yearbook.

Tony

July 20th, 2010

@L. Junius Brutus

That’s exactly what I was thinking.

My parents are from Mississippi, my moms white and my dads black, and let me tell you about 30 years ago (when they got together and before she had me) they got death threats, and the local law enforcement refused to do anything about it, basically saying they deserved it.

Just because there’s supposed to be rules doesn’t mean they’ll be enforced.

If they wouldn’t accept interracial relationships in the late 70s/early 80s, I doubt they’re going to be extremely supportive of homosexual relationships even in the 2010s.

Priya Lynn

July 20th, 2010

Junius it’s unlikely they’ll enforce the anti-discrimination policy – they’re claiming they always had one in place that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. If they felt free to violate it then they’ll feel free to violate it now. They are also continuing to maintain that they never discriminated against Constance in anyway, that they just settled because they felt a protracted lawsuit would interfere with the upcoming school year.

DmR

July 21st, 2010

>Just because there’s supposed to be
>rules doesn’t mean they’ll be enforced.

Well, at $35,000.00 for that last lawsuit, I think they may start taking this seriously!

Even though they may think they could ignore it, when it starts to hit them in the pocketbook, they will take notice. :)

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