A Mississippi school district has canceled this year’s prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School after the Mississippi ACLU urged school officials to allow a lesbian couple to attend. Administrators turned down requests from 18-year-old Constance McMillen and her girlfriend, another student at the school, who planned on wearing a tuxedo. The school cited “distractions to the educational process caused by recent events” as reason for canceling the event, suggesting that “a private group host an independent prom instead.” McMillen, however, said the district’s decision was “retaliation” for speaking out:
“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, so in a way it’s really retaliation.”
School officials told McMillen last month that she could not bring her sophomore girlfriend to the prom and could not wear a tuxedo. The school then circulated a memo prohibiting same-sex dates.
“I asked my teacher about it, and she said, ‘Well, you have to remember where you are,’” McMillen said.
In neighboring Alabama last year, the Franklin County School system in Russellville “reversed its policy prohibiting a lesbian student from attending a prom with her girlfriend.” In Utah, the Salt Lake City-based Utah Pride Center hosts a gay prom every year, but “Executive Director Valerie Larabee said districts have not enforced same-sex date prohibitions for years.” In Los Angeles United School District schools, same-sex couples are permitted to attend the prom, and one of these schools has even elected a gay male prom queen.
The AP reports that when McMillen returned to school today after the prom cancellation announcement, she received some “some unfriendly looks from classmates,” and one student told her, “Thanks for ruining my senior year.”