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Mar 24, 2010
By now, many people have heard that Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi has cancelled their prom because lesbian student Constance McMillen wanted to take her girlfriend. For the past three weeks, Constance has appeared on several news and talk shows, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The Facebook group “Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to Prom!” has over 410,000 fans. And yesterday, the ACLU announced…
A Mississippi federal court today ruled that school officials violated a lesbian student’s First Amendment rights when it canceled the high school prom rather than let the student attend with her girlfriend.
This does not mean that the school will be forced to reschedule their prom, but it does mean that they were wrong in barring Constance from attending with her girlfriend.
Further, the court says that since the school represented the private prom being organized by parents at a furniture store as open to all students, then the court expects that event will indeed invite McMillen and her girlfriend.
Constance’s story in Mississippi has inspired LGBTQ youth across the country. One of those people is Derrick Martin from the small town of Cochran, Georgia.
In January, Derrick asked school officials at Bleckley County High School if he could take his boyfriend to prom (because school policy states that prom dates from other counties must be approved in advance). After originally turning him down, last week the school finally said YES.
School officials said they have no policy in place against it.
“You don’t have the right to say no,” principal Michelle Masters said. “As a principal, I don’t judge him. I’m taught not to judge. I have to push my own beliefs to the background.”
Charlotte Pipkin, the superintendent of schools, said the school board didn’t take any votes on Martin’s request, but the board did discuss the matter during a board meeting.
"Students are allowed to bring their date to prom,” Pipkin said. "There’s nothing that says who the date is."
Even if there is a backlash, both educators said they won’t cancel or change their plans for the prom. It would not be fair to the students, Pipkin said.
I am so glad that Bleckley County High School has more sense and decency than Itawamba Agricultural High School.
“It’s my senior prom, and I wanted to be able to prove not everyone would cancel prom.”
Martin said he could have settled for what he did last year and simply attend the prom with a female friend, but he didn’t want to do that this year. “It’s standing up for the rights thing, especially after the Mississippi canceled prom,” he said. “It’s senior prom. It’s pretty big.”
This is a great story! It shows that things are changing, and even more than that, it shows what can happen when one person stands up for their rights. When Constance McMillen decided to do something about her school’s homophobic actions, it turned into something much bigger. Her school didn’t change their decision, but Derrick Martin’s school did. The more schools that not only allow but welcome same-sex prom dates, the easier it will be for other schools (and other social and political institutions) to do the right thing. The more people who stand up for their rights, the harder it will be, and the less acceptable it will be, for schools, etc. to discriminate against them. There is a lot here to be happy and hopeful about, but we cannot forget that this happened because people got active!
From a follow-up article on Macon.com:
Martin said he pushed to take his boyfriend to the dance after hearing about a girl in Mississippi who asked to take her girlfriend to the prom.
Her school eventually canceled the dance rather than allow them to attend together.
“Maybe (other gay students) will think if Bleckley County will let them, maybe my school will,” Martin said.
I hope that Derrick is right. I hope that his story and Constance’s story will continue to inspire other people to take action at their schools.
I do want to bring attention, though, to this point…
But because of the media attention, Martin’s parents have kicked him out and the teen is staying with a friend, he said.
Because Derrick Martin wants to go to prom with his boyfriend, he’s not allowed to come home. Because he wants to go to prom with his boyfriend, his parents told him to leave the house. Because he wants to go to prom with his boyfriend, he’s got to put up with this sh*t not from his school, but from his parents! His school isn’t kicking him out of class. His school isn’t kicking him out of the prom. His parents are the ones who are kicking him out. That’s not okay. Derrick has nothing to be ashamed of. He’s a pretty amazing young man. According to Macon.com, Derrick is “an honor student who tutors at-risk elementary and middle school students after school.” This is the kid who got kicked out of the house???
Mr. and Mrs. Martin, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
To learn ways that YOU can TAKE ACTION and MAKE A DIFFERENCE, visit GetBusyGetEqual.
Let’s keep the momentum going!!