Constance McMillen is a high school senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. Like many high school seniors, she was looking forward to attending the senior prom — but her in case, she planned to attend with a female date, wearing a tuxedo. When the school refused to let her do either, she complained.
So they cancelled the prom altogether.
Yes, the school had previously notified students in writing that prom dates must be of the opposite sex, and Superintendent Teresa McNeece had warned Constance that only male students were allowed to wear tuxedos. She had also warned that Constance and her girlfriend would be thrown out of prom if other students complained about their presence there.
The school’s decision to cancel prom for all students came after Constance and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tried to informally talk with the school about the issue.
Officials from the county board of education issued this statement on Wednesday night: “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.” The decision was made “taking into consideration the education, safety and well-being of our students.”
They also added that they hoped private citizens would host a similar event to replace the school’s prom this year. This of course brings to mind images of corporate-sponsored proms… How about the GEICO Itawamba Agricultural High School Prom?
In response, the ACLU has sued the school on Constance’s behalf. The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi to force the reinstatement of the prom. In an ACLU news release, the student at the heart of the lawsuit had this to say:
“All I wanted was the same chance to enjoy my prom night like any other student. But my school would rather hurt all the 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.”
Kristy Bennett, Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi, added her own statement:
“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. … The government, and that includes public schools, can’t censor someone’s free expression just because some other person might not like it.”
As usual, I want to hear what my readers have to say… Do you think the school acted in its students’ best interest by eliminating a distraction and source of controversy? Or should they have continued their plans to host the prom but required Constance to abide by their rules? Or should they have let Constance attend the prom dressed in a tuxedo and/or with a female date?
Reply below and share your views.