The Itawamba School District has agreed to update its anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and will pay McMillen $35,000 in damages for denying lesbian student Constance McMillen the right to attend her prom with her girlfriend
From the ACLU Press Release:
Itawamba County School District officials agreed to have a judgment entered against them in the case of a recent high school graduate who sued her school for canceling the prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend. The agreement ends a precedent-setting lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 18-year-old Constance McMillen, who suffered humiliation and harassment after parents, students and school officials executed a cruel plan to put on a “decoy” prom for her while the rest of her classmates were at a private prom 30 miles away.
“I’m so glad this is all over. I won’t ever get my prom back, but it’s worth it if it changes things at my school,” said McMillen, who was harassed so badly by students blaming her for the prom cancellation that she had to transfer to another high school to finish her senior year. “I hope this means that in the future students at my school will be treated fairly. I know there are students and teachers who want to start a gay-straight alliance club, and they should be able to do that without being treated like I was by the school.” As set forth in documents filed in court today, school officials agreed to implement a policy banning discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the first policy to do so at a public school in the state of Mississippi. The school also agreed to pay McMillen $35,000 in damages and pay for McMillen’s attorneys’ fees.
“Constance went through a great deal of harassment and humiliation simply for standing up for her rights, and she should be proud of what she has accomplished,” said Christine P. Sun, senior counsel with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Thanks to her bravery, we now not only have a federal court precedent that can be used to protect the rights of students all over the country to bring the date they want to their proms, but we also have the first school anti-discrimination policy of its kind in Mississippi.”
In addition to today’s legal judgment against the school, an earlier ruling in the case set an important precedent that will help prevent other students from suffering the kind of discrimination McMillen experienced. In March, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi issued a ruling in McMillen’s case that school officials violated McMillen’s First Amendment rights when it canceled the high school prom rather than let McMillen attend with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo.
Thats great news for McMillan, but unfortunately it still seems like Itawamba County and Fulton Mississippi is STILL amongst the douchiest places in America and the South will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century as local media are painting it as a payoff and the school itself is admitting NO WRONGDOING.
But school district attorney Michelle Floyd issued a statement today saying the northeast Mississippi district is admitting no wrongdoing in the affair.
“The Itawamba County School District believes that Constance McMillen’s rights under the United States Constitution were not violated by any act, omission, policy, custom or practice of the district,” Floyd said in the statement.
Floyd also said the district’s insurance policy would pay the award. Christine Sun, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who represented McMillen in the lawsuit, said the claim is a “distinction without a difference.”
Head on over to to the Clarion Ledge page and read the comments. You can almost hear dueling banjo’s in the background of some of the comments.