Itawamba school prom off after lesbian's date request

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

FULTON – The Itawamba County School District has canceled prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School.
The district announced the cancellation in a one-paragraph statement issued late Wednesday afternoon. It said that the district hoped that “private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors.”
The decision comes one week and one day after the district received a letter from the ACLU of Mississippi demanding that it allow a female student to attend the April 2 dance with her girlfriend.
The civil liberties organization gave the district until Wednesday to change its policy to either allow same-sex prom dates or possibly face legal action.
Kristy Bennett, legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi, said Wednesday night that she had not yet seen the district’s statement and could not immediately say how the organization would respond.
The Itawamba County Board of Education held a special meeting on Wednesday and issued its statement. It said the decision was caused by “the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events.”
“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, that the Itawamba County School District not host a junior/senior prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School,” the statement read. “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this causes anyone.”
Itawamba County Superintendent Teresa McNeece could not be reached further comment.
The ACLU’s demand came on behalf of Constance McMillen, a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School.
McMillen was told by school officials that she and her girlfriend would not be allowed to arrive together at the prom and that they might be thrown out if their presence made other students uncomfortable, according to a release sent last week by the ACLU of Mississippi. She was also told she could not wear a tuxedo to the dance.
McMillen, said it was retaliation for her efforts to bring her girlfriend, also a student, to the April 2 dance.
“A bunch of kids at school are really going to hate me for this, so in a way it’s really retaliation,” McMillen told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson. Calls to McMillen by The Associated Press and the NEMS Daily Journal late Wednesday went unanswered.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here for Patsy R. Brumfield’s blog: Itawamba AHS misses chance to be great

Press release on Prom Decision

Itawamba Agricultural High School Cancels Prom

(Press Release sent by the School Board Attorney)

The Itawamba County Board of Education held a special meeting on March 10, 2010, and adopted the following statement:

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. It is our hope that private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors. 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, that the Itawamba County School District not host a junior/senior prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this causes anyone.

Itawamba County Board of Education