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Itawamba County school district’s

March 12, 2010

Miss. School Prom off After Lesbian’s Date Request Miss. school district won’t host prom after lesbian student’s request to bring girlfriend By SHELIA BYRD Associated Press Writer JACKSON, Miss. March 10, 2010 (AP) The Associated Press

Anna Watson, a 17-year-old junior at the high school, was looking forward to the prom, especially since the town’s only hotspot is the bowling alley, she said.

“I am a little bummed out about it. I guess it’s a decision that had to be made. Either way someone was going to get disappointed — either Constance was or we were,” Watson said. “I don’t agree with homosexuality, but I can’t change what another person thinks or does.”

northern Mississippi school district decided Wednesday not to host a high school prom after a lesbian student demanded she be able to attend with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo. Constance McMillen, 18, a student at the Itawamba County Agricultural High School is shown in this file photo. The school has canceled the prom rather than allow McMillen to attend the dance with her girlfriend. (The McMillen Family via The ACLU of Mississippi/AP Photo)The Itawamba County school district’s policy requires that senior prom dates be of the opposite sex. The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi had given the district until Wednesday to change that policy and allow 18-year-old Constance McMillen to escort her girlfriend, who is also a student, to the dance on April 2. Instead, the school board met and issued a statement announcing it wouldn’t host the event at Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Fulton, “due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events.” The statement didn’t mention McMillen or the ACLU. When asked by The Associated Press if McMillen’s demand led to the cancellation, school board attorney Michele Floyd said she could only reference the statement. Related Gay Students Wanting to Be SeenAnd the Prom Queen Is … a Guy? Raw Deal: GM Begins Firing 1,100 Dealers”It is our hope that private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors,” district officials said in the statement. “However, at this time, we feel that it is in the best interest of the Itawamba County School District, after taking into consideration the education, safety and well being of our students.” The ACLU said a school policy banning same-sex prom dates violated McMillen’s constitutional rights. Kristy Bennett, legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, said the district was trying to avoid the issue. “But that doesn’t take away their legal obligations to treat all the students fairly,” Bennett said. “On Constance’s behalf, this is unfair to her. All she’s trying to do is assert her rights.” Bennett said she wouldn’t allow McMillen to comment on Wednesday, saying “she’s still trying to process” the district’s actions. Calls to McMillen’s cell phone went unanswered. Itawamba County is a rural area of about 23,000 people in north Mississippi near the Alabama state line. It borders Pontotoc County, Miss., where more than a decade ago school officials were sued in federal court over their practice of student-led intercom prayer and Bible classes.

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