UPDATE: McMillen goes to Itawamba County prom that is sparsely attended

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Constance McMillen did attend her school’s prom Friday night, although many of her classmates partied at an alternate event in Itawamba County.
McMillen went to the Itawamba Agricultural High School prom at the Fulton Country Club, but she was one of the few to attend the event. McMillen said she arrived at the dance an hour-and-a-half after it began and stayed for about 30 minutes. She said she saw six other students and several school officials while she was there.
Meanwhile, many more Itawamba AHS students went to an event held at the community center in Evergreen, another community in Itawamba County. McMillen said she knew about that event but that when she asked another student if she was invited, the student told her, “the prom is at the country club.”
“I took that as no,” McMillen said. “If I wasn’t wanted there, I wasn’t going to go.”
The Itawamba AHS prom came under scrutiny after the ACLU sent a letter to the Itawamba County School District demanding it change the school rule forbidding same-sex dates at the Itawamba AHS prom. The letter said the district must allow McMillen to attend the dance with her girlfriend and to wear a tuxedo or it could face legal action.
Eight days later, the district announced it would not hold a prom, sparking an international story that landed McMillen on the CBS Early Show, The Joy Behar Show and The Ellen Degeneres Show, among others.
At a hearing on a preliminary injunction filed by the ACLU, Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson ruled that the district had violated McMillen’s First Amendment rights but that it shouldn’t be forced to sponsor a prom since a group of parents had already agreed to hold an event that would be “open to all IAHS students.”
Last Monday night, those parents announced they would no longer host that prom. On Tuesday afternoon, school district attorney Michele Floyd said a private prom would be held at the Fulton Country Club, although the exact sponsorship of that event remains a mystery.
Kristy Bennett, legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, said her organization was still gathering details about what happened Friday night to determine whether they would ask Davidson for sanctions.
At the least, Bennett said the details about Friday’s prom would be used in the organization’s damages suit against the district, which is still being developed.
“We are disappointed at the sparse attendance, and we’re looking further into the situation,” Bennett said.
“Whatever we find will be brought to the court’s attention, whether it is in the damages trial, or whatever. There will still be a trial on the merits. The case didn’t end in the preliminary hearing.”

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

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