Gay Issues

Miss. School Removes Lesbian Student's Photo and Name from Yearbook

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

A school in Mississippi has eliminated all references to a lesbian student from its 2010 yearbook, leaving the student in tears, and her mother outraged: "I don't get it. Why would they do this to her?"

In October 2009, officials at the Wesson Attendance Center in Jackson decided not to put the picture Ceara Sturgis in the upcoming yearbook because the openly gay student posed in a tuxedo rather than a dress. Sturgis and her mother turned to the Mississippi ACLU to help them get the photo in the yearbook. But still, the school district refused.

They thought Ceara's name would at least be mentioned on the senior page. But when the yearbook was published, there was no mention of Ceara anywhere.

"They didn't even put her name in it," Ceara's mother Veronica Rodriguez said. "I was so furious when she told me about it. Ceara started crying and I told her to suck it up. Is that not pathetic for them to do that? Yet again, they have crapped on her and made her feel alienated."

Copiah County School District spokeswoman Martha Traxler refused to comment on the school's reason for excluding Ceara from the senior page. Last year, the school gave no indication that it would withhold Ceara's' information, but said it had legal justification to not run her photo.

"We have had our legal counsel research the validity of the position of the School District on this matter," Copiah County Superintendent Ricky Clopton said in the statement. "We are informed by counsel that this exact issue has been litigated in federal court. The decisions of the federal courts completely support the policy of the district in this regard. It is the desire of the Copiah County School District to inform, first, the patrons of the district, and second, all other interested parties, that its position is not arbitrary, capricious or unlawful, but is based upon sound educational policy and legal precedent."

Legal or not, Ceara's mother says this is simply an insult to her daughter.

"It's like she's nobody there, even though she's gone to school there for 12 years," Rodriguez said. "They mentioned none of her accolades, even though she's one of the smartest students there with wonderful grades. They've got kids in the book that have been busted for drugs. There's even a picture of one of the seniors who dropped out of school."