Lesbian teen accepts Miss. school district's offer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A teenage lesbian who sued her school district over its ban of same-sex prom dates has accepted an offer to settle the case.

Constance McMillen
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

In this March 22 file photograph, Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old student at Itawamba County Agricultural High School, looks around the federal courthouse in Aberdeen, Miss., prior to a hearing regarding the ACLU's preliminary injunction to force the prom at her high school.

American Civil Liberties Union attorneys representing Constance McMillen filed notice Monday in U.S. District Court to accept a judgment offer from the Itawamba County School District to pay $35,000, plus attorney's fees. As part of the agreement, the school district also said it would follow a policy not to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity in any educational or extracurricular activities.

The ACLU said the case is precedent-setting because the district is the first in Mississippi to implement a policy banning discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

"I'm so glad this is all over," McMillen said in a statement Tuesday. "I won't ever get my prom back, but it's worth if it changes things at my school."

A call to the school district in north Mississippi seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in March when the district canceled a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School after McMillen asked to bring her girlfriend to the event and wear a tuxedo.

The ACLU sought an injunction to force the district to hold the prom. U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson refused the demand, but he said in a March 23 ruling that the district had violated McMillen's rights.

District officials said in the offer that they didn't believe McMillen's rights had been violated by anything they had done. The defendants in the case were district superintendent Teresa McNeece, Itawamba Agricultural High School principal Trae Wiygul and Rick Mitchell, assistant principal at IAHS.

The ACLU said McMillen was harassed by students after the prom was canceled. McMillen and the ACLU also said there had been a scheme in which she was sent to a "decoy" privately sponsored prom while her classmates attended a dance at another location.

"I hope this means that in the future students at my school will be treated fairly," McMillen said.

McMillen eventually transferred from IAHS to a school in Jackson, Miss., to graduate this past spring.

Her case gained national attention and she was featured on television shows and served as a grand marshal for New York's Gay Pride Parade, among numerous other events in which she participated.

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Jan Bachelder's picture

No comments?

I must say I'm amazed that the usual group of biased judgemental people who usually post here haven't jumped all over this young woman.
I don't necessarily agree with her lifestyle, but for the school to cancel an entire class prom over one simple request is ridiculous. Had she not asked permission and had just gone, it may have cause a bit of an uproar, but certainly wouldn't have made national headlines. An expensive lesson for the school for sure.


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