A federal judge ruled late last month that the school board from Itawamba County, Mississippi violated a lesbian student’s rights when it canceled the prom because the student challenged a ban at the prom of same sex couples. However, the federal judge did not order the district to reinstate the prom.
Judge Glen Davidson from US District Court did not reinstate the prom because a private prom that some parents are planning will provide the student with the same experience. The late date of the April 2nd prom made it difficult for the judge to require its reinstatement saying it would be too much of an inconvenience for all involved.
The case began when Constance McMillen requested to bring her girlfriend who is a sophomore at the same school, to the dance and she wanted to wear a tuxedo to the event. McMillen, 18, contacted the American Civil Liberties union to sue the school district to allow the same sex couple access to the prom.
Davidson stated a trial would be set for a later date but did not set a date for it. The parents of students at the school are hosting a private prom on the same day the school prom was to take place. All junior and senior students are able to attend, though there was not specific information about whether or not gay students would be allowed to attend. Another prom is being sponsored by the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, which is an advocacy group for same sex couples.
The court case furthers the First Amendment rights of same sex couples within the school setting. Kristy Bennett, who is the legal director for the ACL, is preparing the case for trial and plans to ask the judge to list the board’s actions as unconstitutional. They are hoping to be awarded damages plus court costs.
The school board says it canceled the prom because they did not believe the prom could be successful at protecting the safety of students. The school is in a rural northern Mississippi community and has some 715 students in the high school.