UPDATE: Lesbian who sued IAHS over prom date transfers schools

By Shela Byrd/The Associated Press

JACKSON — The lesbian teenager who sued her rural Mississippi school district over a ban of same-sex prom dates told The Associated Press on Thursday that she has transferred to a high school in the capital city to graduate.

Constance McMillen said she now attends a high school in Jackson, about 180 miles away from Itawamba Agricultural High School in north Mississippi. She wouldn’t say which school she attends, but she expects to graduate June 2.

McMillen filed a federal lawsuit against the Itawamba County School District in March. She claimed her constitutional rights were violated when school officials first told her she couldn’t bring her girlfriend as a prom date and then later canceled the dance when the American Civil Liberties Union issued a demand letter on her behalf.

McMillen had said she faced hostility on campus and in the community in the aftermath of her actions.

“There was a lot of stuff going on at Itawamba. It was just really hard to do my homework, so I transferred to Jackson to get my diploma,” McMillen said. “There’s a large gay community there. All the teachers are very nice and very helpful.”

Itawamba School District Superintendent Teresa McNeece didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Meanwhile, officials in Itawamba County are preparing for a weekend protest at the district’s Saturday graduation. The Westboro Baptist Church’s website said members of the fundamentalist church would demonstrate in Fulton from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The church says parents did not teach their children to condemn homosexuality.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member and attorney for the Topeka, Kan.-based church, said the group will protest peacefully on a public sidewalk.

The church has demonstrated at the funerals of soldiers, saying God allows military deaths to punish the United States for tolerating homosexuality.

Fulton Mayor Paul Walker said he learned about the planned protest about a month ago. He said the church contacted Itawamba Community College, where the graduation will be held. He said local officials are prepared for demonstrators.

“The area is roped off where they will be allowed to stand. Our sheriff’s department and campus police and city police have everything in hand. We hope not to have any problem,” Walker said.

McMillen’s lawsuit against the district is pending in U.S. District Court. In March, U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson refused the ACLU’s demand to force the district to reinstate the prom, but said canceling it did violate McMillen’s rights. The district has until May 27 to file a response to McMillen’s amended complaint, which now seeks monetary damages.

“We are totally ready to get this behind us,” the mayor said. “The national exposure was great, but I wish it could have been for some other reason.”