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Mississippi school sued for canceling prom over lesbian student

"All I wanted was the same chance to enjoy my prom night like any other student," said Constance McMillen, 18.
"All I wanted was the same chance to enjoy my prom night like any other student," said Constance McMillen, 18.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lawsuit alleges officials are violating student's right to freedom of expression
  • ACLU asks court to reinstate prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School
  • "My school would rather hurt all the students than treat everyone fairly," student says
  • At center of suit is a memo from district stating that prom dates had to be of opposite sex

(CNN) -- A Mississippi high school faces a lawsuit over its decision to cancel its prom rather than allow a lesbian high school student to attend with her girlfriend.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleges that officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, are violating the student's First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

The ACLU asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi to reinstate the prom.

"All I wanted was the same chance to enjoy my prom night like any other student. But my school would rather hurt all the students than treat everyone fairly," said the student, 18-year-old Constance McMillen, in an ACLU news release. "This isn't just about me and my rights anymore -- now I'm fighting for the right of all the students at my school to have our prom."

At the center of the lawsuit is a memorandum from the school to students, dated February 5, which states that prom dates must be of the opposite sex.

Also, when McMillen expressed a desire to wear a tuxedo to the prom, the superintendent told her only male students were allowed to wear tuxes, according to court documents.

Superintendent Teresa McNeece also told McMillen that she and her girlfriend could be ejected from the prom if any of the other students complained about their presence there, according to the documents.

The prom was canceled after McMillen and the ACLU tried informally to get the school to change its stance.

Officials at the Itawamba County School District were not immediately available for comment Thursday.

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In a statement released Wednesday, the county's board of education said that, "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."

The school hoped that private citizens in the community would organize an event to replace the prom, the statement said.

The decision was made, the board of education said, "taking into consideration the education, safety and well-being of our students."

"Itawamba school officials are trying to turn [McMillen] into the villain who called the whole thing off, and that just isn't what happened," said Kristy Bennett, Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. She's fighting for everyone to be able to enjoy the prom.

"The government, and that includes public schools, can't censor someone's free expression just because some other person might not like it."

 
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