Thursday, March 25, 2010

No Prom, But A Trial. An update on the School that cancelled its Prom rather than let a lesbian student bring her girlfriend.

So the News:

U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson ruled that Constance McMillen's rights were violated by the school, and there will be a trial, but that he will not force the school to have the prom (which had been scheduled for April 2nd.)


So the judge acknowledges it was wrong, but instead of correcting the problem (making the school have the prom including the lesbian student), he's going to let the injustice stand?

And when will the trial be? It's not known.

So depending on the outcome of the case, it might help kids next year who want to be out and bring their GLBTQ dates to their school proms (their schools might hesitate to discriminate if Constance's school is found guilty) but that doesn't really help Constance.

And, as I suspected, some parents got together and are having a "private" prom for Constance's High School - one where there is no legal recourse if they discriminate on who can attend.

And will Constance attend the private prom? She's not sure. On Tuesday she said:

"I'm going to school tomorrow (Wednesday) and will get a feel of how everybody feels about me. That will help me make my decision about whether I'm going to the private prom," McMillen said. "I want to go because all my junior and senior class will be there, but I don't want to be somewhere I'm not welcomed."

Kristy Bennett, ACLU Mississippi legal director, called the decision a "victory."

And maybe from an adult lawyer perspective it is a victory of sorts. Or a step-on-the-road-to-victory-eventually.

But for the teens involved, for Candace and her girlfriend, and for every other GLBTQ Teen going to or thinking about going to their prom this year? I have to say that this ruling stinks.

What do you think?

Share your thoughts in comments.


Denise said...

I think that the saddest part of it all is that after everything people have said to make her feel wanted, strong, empowered... she is still worried about what the kids in her school will think about it. More than letting her go to a prom; I want her to feel wanted. I want her to feel accepted and loved. And safe.

It makes me sad that people who hate have such an effect on those people they choose to discriminate against. Not to sound all “Miss USA”, but I really want there to be a place where we can all feel accepted. I wish that it hadn’t all come to this where a girl who people all over are rooting for her and cheering her on still feels like there could be issues because of the people who started all of this in the first place. I want every person; no matter what difference they have facing them no matter what it has to do with to feel safe and welcomed. To know that conformity isn’t beauty and that God made us different because he wants us that way. Love is what’s important, why should people get mad who you’re directing your love towards?

Jonathon Arntson said...

Safe...accepted..these words are familiar upon my lips, but I know not how it feels to live them. I can only utter them while I lay in bed.

That's how I felt as a teen. Denise's dreams about people feeling safe and accepted, no matter their differences, is shared by me. I think we're slowly on our way there, but a lot of bad will happen first.

ivanova said...

Constance is a brave, quality human being. I know people have offered to sponsor alternative proms for Constance that will probably be 1,000% more fabulous than a lame school prom anyway. But of course she and her gf would want to go to her regular prom. This is going to lead to segregated "private" proms, one for the haters, and one for the lovers.

There was an article in the NYT last year about segregated proms in Montgomery County, Georgia--one for whites only and one for the black students. (The black proms are open to everyone, but few white kids show.) These "private" proms are not organized by the school, but by parents. I think that no matter what courts rule, and how much great support kids who are being discriminated against get from outsiders, in the end these issues are going to be decided by the kids themselves. They're not just our future, they are our present. Constance is an inspiration to people all over the world. If enough white kids in Montgomery Cty told their parents they would not attend segregated proms, it would be over. If the kids at Constance's school could overcome their own homophobia and reach out to Constance, it would be over. I wish that could happen.

Jacqui said...

Perhaps they could just cancel ANYTHING that might have gay people? Lesbian prom couple? No prom for anyone. Against gay marriage? NOBODY can get married any more. No more "Don't ask; don't tell;" we'll just disband the military. These books might have gay characters so NOBODY can read them. Oh, wait. That one's real. Sigh.

Unknown said...

I agree with Denise it's sad that she's still worried that people may be upset with her about having their prom changed.

Ralph Gallagher said...

From what I've seen in different news articles, the judge didn't force the school to reinstate the prom because there was a private prom already planned that he was assured wouldn't discriminate against anyone. The judge felt that this was a good enough alternative.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks everyone for your kind and insightful comments!

Denise, I agree with you (and you can stand by me and be all "Miss USA" about it!) I also "really want there to be a place where we can all feel accepted."

Jonathon, I like to believe things are getting better. Progress seems slow sometimes, but even the fact that we're struggling with a girl bringing her girlfriend to her high school prom is progress from where things were when I was a teen, and this would have been unthinkable. The strength of Teens today blows me away!

Ivanova, I think you're right. We will have the segregated proms - in fact, a lot of GSA-ers are promoting separate GLBTQ-friendly proms so there will be a safe space for GLBTQ and allied teens to celebrate Prom. It's a bit like the argument about separate gay schools or making all schools safe. Ideally, we want ALL schools (and Proms) to be safe for ALL students, but that isn't the reality on the ground. Yet.

someone on facebook told me that they heard from a kid at the same school that the reaction to the news of a vegetarian in the cafeteria would be to cancel all school lunches. That tells us a lot about how the powers that be keep kids in line and under control. It's very frustrating - we should be encouraging teens to be real, not to conform for the sake of conformity!

Nerds, me too. I hope Candace finds the strength to realize she doesn't have to care what her classmates think.

Ralph, that's interesting reasoning for why the judge didn't force the school to reinstate their prom, but if we're talking about precedent, I think it was the wrong one. The school should not be allowed to cancel the prom to prevent a GLBTQ student from attending. That's WRONG. I don't think a private prom, no matter how well-intentioned and inclusive, sends the same message.

Thanks everyone for your great comments!

It really is like our own virtual Gay-Straight Alliance meeting!


Biblio Reader said...

I would definitely love for the school to put a prom back on, but I'm pretty sure the judge couldn't force them to, it's not like it's part of the requirements of schools. Proms and dances are extras, not mandatory. I definitely agree the school should put the prom back on, but I don't think it's legally possible to force them to.

MissA said...

I compltetely agree that this STINKS. To an adult, yes this is a vicotry and I'd rather have this ruling than one that says her rights weren't violated. But it's PROM. I don't get to go for another year, but from what I've read/seen on TV/heard from other people, it should be fun. It's one of the last times seniors will all be together. And that's being taken away from Constance and everyone else. They should just have the prom! This makes me so mad, that they closed prom just because a teen wanted to bring her girlfriend. I know this is a no-brainer but I really, REALLY DESPISE Injustice. Gah!!!

I'm hopeful that her classmates will be understanding and loyal and that they will attend the private prom which will be open to all at the high school.

Constance and her class, I'm rooting for you!

Thanks for keeping us updated Lee.