Itawamba prom off, then on again

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal and Alisha Wilson/The Itawamba County Times

First, Itawamba Agricultural High School’s parent-sponsored prom was canceled. Then it was rescheduled with a different leadership and a new location.
By the end of a hectic day Tuesday, the school was scheduled to have a parent-sponsored junior-senior prom Friday at the Fulton Country Club.
Itawamba School Board attorney Michele Floyd also said same-sex dates would be allowed at the event.
The original parent-sponsored prom was canceled Monday night after a group of about 80 parents met to discuss the event, which had been scheduled to be held at the Tupelo Furniture Market. Multiple parents confirmed the prom had been canceled but would not say why.
But they did confirm the original parent-sponsored prom would have followed the same set of rules as those previously set by the school, which included a ban on same-sex dates.
After news of the private prom’s cancellation surfaced, Floyd sent out an e-mail Tuesday afternoon that the prom would be held at the Fulton Country Club, and country club manager Stanley Ramey confirmed it.
Floyd said the event at the country club would be sponsored by parents, but she would not identify those parents. Three parents involved with the original parent-sponsored prom said they knew nothing on Tuesday afternoon about a prom being scheduled at the country club.
The IAHS prom has been wrapped in controversy since the Itawamba County School Board released a statement earlier this month that it would no longer host the event. That statement came after the district received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union demanding it allow senior Constance McMillen to attend with her girlfriend and to wear a tuxedo to the dance.
Parents stepped in and agreed to sponsor the event.
The ACLU filed a preliminary injunction to force the district to sponsor the prom. Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson ruled March 23 the district did not have to sponsor the prom but that it did violate McMillen’s First Amendment rights.
Davidson said that because there was the option of a parent-sponsored prom “open to all IAHS students,” it would not serve the public interest to force the school district to hold the prom.
Christine P. Sun, one of the ACLU lawyers who represented McMillen at the injunction hearing, said when McMillen tried to buy a ticket on Monday to the parent-sponsored prom, she was told the deadline to buy tickets had passed on Saturday. But a parent told McMillen to leave her phone number and the parent would get a ticket for her, Sun said.
In a statement released by ACLU lawyer Kristy Bennett on Tuesday night, McMillen said she is hopeful she will be welcomed at the parent-sponsored prom.
“I hope it’s true that the new private prom really is welcoming to everyone,” McMillen said in the statement. “I never wanted my classmates to not have a prom – all I wanted was the chance to take the person I care about to prom and enjoy the night like everyone else.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com. Contact Alisha Wilson at alisha.wilson@itawamba360.com.