ACLU demands female student be allowed to take girlfriend, wear tuxedo to prom
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition have sent a letter demanding that Itawamba County School District officials reverse their decision to forbid a lesbian student from attending prom with her girlfriend and from wearing a tuxedo to the prom.
Constance McMillen, a student at Itawamba Agricultural High School, said that school officials told her that she could not arrive at the prom with her girlfriend, also a student at IAHS, and that they might be thrown out if any other students complained about their presence. In addition, she was told that she would not be allowed to wear a tuxedo to the April 2 event.
“Prom is one of those high school moments everyone should get to experience and enjoy. I didn’t go to prom last year, so this is my only chance to go,” said McMillen, an 18-year-old senior at the school in Fulton, a small town of about 3,900 in the northeastern corner of Mississippi. “We just want to be able to be ourselves at our own prom.”
In its letter to Itawamba County School District officials, the ACLU cited federal court cases guaranteeing students’ First Amendment right to bring same-sex dates to school dances, and also pointed out that treating McMillen and other lesbian, gay, and bisexual students differently from other students violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees. In addition to illegally barring McMillen and her girlfriend from attending the prom together, the ACLU said that the school further violated McMillen’s free expression rights by telling her that she can’t wear a tuxedo to the prom.
The ACLU and the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition have given the school district until March 10 to respond to their letter.
Not only do prom dress codes and same-sex date restrictions unfairly restrict LGBT students, but they can also affect other students as well. Some students cannot afford the expected prom attire, and those who do not have dates could be prevented from attending with friends.