A school district in Mississippi has cancelled a high school prom after a lesbian student asked to attend with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo. There is still hope that students will arrange a prom of their own away from school grounds.
Trouble started when 18-year-old Constance McMillan inquired about bringing her girlfriend to the dance at the Itawamba County Agricultural High School in rural Fulton. School policy requires that prom dates be of the opposite sex. Constance had the backing of the ACLU of Mississippi, which gave the district until Wednesday to change the policy, arguing it violates constitutional rights.
Instead, the school district called off the prom. It didn't mention the girl's request as the specific reason, but in a statement said it was "due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events."
"A bunch of kids at school are really going to hate me for this, so in a way it's really retaliation," Constance told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson.
The ACLU said district officials told Constance she and her girlfriend wouldn't be allowed to arrive together, that she would not be allowed to wear a tuxedo, and that she and her girlfriend might be asked to leave if their presence made any other students "uncomfortable."
Kristy Bennett, legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, said the district was trying to avoid the issue.
"But that doesn't take away their legal obligations to treat all the students fairly," Bennett said. "On Constance's behalf, this is unfair to her. All she's trying to do is assert her rights."
The statement from the district went on to say that it wouldn't be against students arranging their own dance:
"It is our hope that private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors. However, at this time, we feel that it is in the best interest of the Itawamba County School District, after taking into consideration the education, safety and well being of our students."
Students have mixed feelings about the controversy.
"I am a little bummed out about it. I guess it's a decision that had to be made. Either way someone was going to get disappointed — either Constance was or we were," junior Anna Watson said. "I don't agree with homosexuality, but I can't change what another person thinks or does."
McKenzie Chaney said she wasn't planning to attend the prom, but "it's kind of ridiculous that they can't let her wear the tuxedo and it all be over with."