Flickr: Photo by Sherry's Rose Cottage
The question on every high schooler's mind at the Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi: Will there be a prom this year?
If Constance McMillen has anything to do with it, there will be.
Last week, in its inscrutable wisdom, the Itawamba board of education canceled the prom, and issued this statement: "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."
Sounds pretty serious. What could those "distractions to the educational process" possibly be? Prepare yourself, they're pretty shocking:
1. Constance McMillen wants to attend the prom with her girlfriend. A February 5, 1950 2010 memorandum from the school to students mandates that prom dates must be of the opposite sex.
2. Constance wants to wear a tuxedo. The school superintendent informed her that only male students were allowed to wear them. (Tacky, slutty prom gowns are permitted.)
The board of ed canceled the prom when Constance and then the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tried to get the school to change its stance on those issues.
Now, the ACLU has filed suit asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi to reinstate the prom. The suit alleges that the school is violating Constance McMillen's First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
In the meantime, Constance isn't winning any Most Popular votes from small-minded classmates who blame her for "ruining their senior year." In the world at large, however, Constance is gaining lots of well-deserved support. The Facebook page Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to Prom! already has over 200,000 fans. Constance has appeared on the CBS's The Early Show, Fox's The Wanda Sykes Show, and MSNBC.
Constance rocks. She's gay and living in Mississippi (a state that Wanda Sykes describes as "always being at the forefront of the wrong side of history"). At 18, Constance already has the courage to be herself -- unlike a certain 55-year-old, anti-gay, gay Republican California senator -- and stand up for her rights. Ironically, she's now fighting for the right for all of her classmates to attend the prom -- even the haters. Pretty amazing for a young woman who was educated in a school district that's now teaching it's students all about hate, ignorance, and homophobia.
There will very likely be some kind of prom for Constance and her classmates this year. New Orleans hotel owner Sean Cummings has offered to bus students from Fulton to New Orleans for a free prom at his hotel. And the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition is raising money to host a "Second Chance Prom" that would welcome all students.
That's beside the point. Itawamba school officials should be called to task. Constance and her classmates deserve to have their prom held at their high school. The federal court should rule -- and soon -- that the school board reinstate the prom.
Despite its attempts to avoid any "distractions to the educational process" (the one that teaches hate, ignorance, and homophobia), the Itawamba County School District might actually learn a thing or two. Maybe some of them will even come out of the closet.
Do you agree with the school district's decision to cancel the prom? Do you think girls should be allowed to wear tuxes to proms?