McMillen's lawyers file complaint seeking damages

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Lawyers representing Constance McMillen want monetary damages added to a lawsuit alleging that the lesbian student’s free-speech rights were violated.
McMillen’s attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday amended their March 11 lawsuit against the Itawamba County School District, its superintendent and the principal and assistant principal at Itawamba Agricultural High School.
The original suit claimed that the district infringed upon McMillen’s free-speech rights when it gave up sponsorship of the IAHS prom instead of allowing McMillen to attend with a same-sex date and to wear a tuxedo.
Senior U.S. Judge Glen H. Davidson did not grant an injunction sought by McMillen’s lawyers to force the district to sponsor the prom, but he did rule on March 23 that the district violated her rights.
He gave McMillen’s lawyers 30 days to amend their suit to seek damages.
The amended complaint, filed Wednesday, also claims that the private prom to which McMillen was invited was “a sham” and that the school district helped plan a second private prom that she was not invited to attend.
Attempts by the Daily Journal to contact school board attorney Michele Floyd and Superintendent Teresa McNeece for comment were unsuccessful.
McMillen wants compensation “in an amount to be determined at trial” for McMillen’s “public humiliation and disparagement” and for her “mental health, medical and educational” repercussions, the complaint says.
McMillen has taken medical leave from her classes at IAHS, the lawsuit claims, and is seeking to transfer to Jackson Public Schools.
Kristy Bennett, legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, said Itawamba County Schools have agreed to McMillen’s transfer request if the other school district also agrees. Bennett said that she has not yet heard from the Jackson School District.
She said McMillen has not spent a full day at school since April 6, the Tuesday after the school’s private prom.
In his March 23 ruling, Davidson said he denied the request for an injunction because the defendants claimed that “all IAHS students” would be encouraged to attend a private prom being organized by parents.
McMillen was invited to attend a private prom held at Fulton Country Club, but only seven other students attended. Many more attended another private prom that McMillen said she was not invited to attend.
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Protest planned for IAHS graduation
An anti-gay group from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas says on its website that it will host a protest of the Itawamba Agricultural High School graduation ceremony on May 22. The group cites the parent-sponsored prom to which Constance McMillen was invited and accuses Fulton parents of “feign(ing) outrage.”
“They had a duty to teach their children what the Lord requires of them. They shirked this duty,” the website said.
-Adam Armour, Itawamba County Times