The ACLU has sued a northern
Mississippi school board after officials decided to cancel an annual
high school prom dance rather than allow a lesbian student attend
with her girlfriend.
In a statement released Thursday, the
human rights group announced it had filed a challenge in U.S.
District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi against
Itawamba County School District.
The district announced Wednesday that
it canceled the Itawamba Agricultural High School (IAHS) prom dance
for junior and senior students. The decision followed an ACLU of
Mississippi demand that a lesbian student be allowed to bring her
“Due to the distractions to the
educational process caused by recent events, the Itawamba County
School District has decided to not host a prom at Itawamba
Agricultural High School this year,” school board members said.
Constance McMillen, 18, contacted the
ACLU after school officials told her she could not attend the dance
with her girlfriend, also a student at IAHS, and that if they arrived
separately but slow-danced together they might be kicked out.
Officials also told McMillen she could not wear a tuxedo to the
A February 5 memo addressed to junior
and senior students stated a prom date “must be of the opposite
“Itawamba school officials are trying
to turn Constance into the villain who called the whole thing off,
and that just isn't what happened. She's fighting for everyone to be
able to enjoy the prom,” Kristy Bennett, legal director of the ACLU
of Mississippi, said in a statement. “The government, and that
includes public schools, can't censor someone's free expression just
because some other person might not like it.”
The case, Constance McMillen v.
Itawamba County School District, et al., asks the court to
reinstate the dance for all students and charges that the First
Amendment guarantees students' right to bring same-sex dates to
“All I wanted was the same chance to
enjoy my prom night like any other student,” McMillen said. “But
my school would rather hurt all students than treat everyone fairly.”
“This isn't just about me and my
rights anymore – now I'm fighting for the right of all the students
at my school to have our prom,” she added.