Tuesday, April 13, 2010

So the High School And Parents Staged a FAKE Prom to keep Constance McMillen and Her Girlfriend from the REAL Prom!

So on Prom night, Constance went with her girlfriend to the "official" prom that they'd been invited to after all the drama... and guess what? There were only 5 other students there.

Mysteriously, everyone else was at ANOTHER prom. A Private Prom, to which Constance had NOT been invited. A prom that was a secret until the next day, when the Facebook photos broke, and well... you can't expect a whole school of juniors and seniors to keep quiet about their Prom, can you?

This was after the court ruled that they didn't need to force the school to have an inclusive prom because hey, Constance had been invited to a prom.

Yeah, she'd been invited to a decoy prom.

This just stinks.

Beyond swearing, there are 3 things each one of us can do:

1. Express your outrage. My friend Stephen wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Constance's district, and it's powerful. Stephen was kind enough to let me share it here:

Dear Superintendent McNeece,

I was saddened to read today that Constance McMillen was duped into attending a ‘fake’ prom, and was not told about or invited to a private prom attended by her classmates; a decision supported by school officials and parents.

As an educator, I just don’t understand how school officials could allow this to happen. You and I became educators because we care about children and because we have taken on a selfless act of providing a service for the benefit of students. We do this because we truly care about the health and well-being of our students.

When I read stories about bullying, harassment and discrimination I never expect it to come from the adults in the environment. What’s worse, it’s coming from adults who are supposed to be the most qualified, educated, knowledgeable and ‘open minded’ about the students they serve. Is it really an issue to you that a student is gay or lesbian? Is it really an issue to you that a gay or lesbian student wants to bring a same sex date to a prom? Is it really an issue to you that your students don’t all represent your core values? Isn’t education supposed to be the ‘great equalizer’ in our society? Regardless of your protected class status, which includes one’s sexual orientation, we are often told that if you work hard in school you will be judged on your merits and not the color of your skin or religion. Shouldn’t we also include the person that you choose to love?

I’m trying really hard to understand your decision making and why you as the Superintendent, the person who ranks the highest in your educational community; why you would allow this to happen. Where is your heart? Where is the little voice inside of you that tells you right from wrong? Where is that deepest part of you called a soul that has the capacity to show compassion for another human being, because that is what this is really about; not who Constance brings to a prom but your ability to look beyond your own personal biases and prejudices and say to yourself, ‘this young person is just as deserving and entitled as all other students and deserves the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of her own happiness.'

Had you allowed her to attend the prom with her female date and in a tuxedo, the duration of that event would have lasted about 3 hours, yet you chose to deny this student a basic human right, and now this drama has dragged out for several weeks and it makes you, the Superintendent, look bigoted, silly and completely foolish.

So the question is this: Are you an educator who cares about students…ALL your students, or are you there to pander to the biases and prejudices of your community?

In my opinion, you should step down from your job. You are not deserving of calling yourself an educator or a leader. An educator embraces and cares for all students and a leader, a TRUE leader, does what is right by students and teaches a bigoted community of parents that schools in their community are open to all students, regardless of their protected class status, and embraces all ideas, regardless of how controversial they may appear to be. All you have done is toed the line and reinforced a status quo in your community that is both negative and cruel.

In the end, you have deeply hurt a student that did not deserve this manner of cruelty. Forever, she will remember her last year of high school as a horrible reminder of the bigotry that exists at her school and in her community. And you, what did you learn from all this?


Stephen B. Jimenez

You can send your letters here:

School Board Members

Eddie Hood, a082315@allstate.com

Jack Nichols, jnichols@itawamba.k12.ms.us

Harold Martin, hmartin@itawamba.k12.ms.us

Clara Brown, cbrown@network-one.come

Tony Wallace, twallace@nexband.com


Mr. McNeece, tmcneece@itawamba.k12.ms.us


Trae Wiygul, twiygul@itawamba.k12.ms.us

2. Express your support and encouragement for Constance. Maybe even send her a card. What would you say to her? Here's the address:

Chris Hampton, Public Education Associate
c/o Constance McMillen
ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and AIDS Project
125 Broad St., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10004

3. Write your Congressperson and let them know how important it is for our government to protect GLBTQ students like Candace by passing The Student Non-Discrimination Act.

Here's the text of the HRC letter (and you can click on this link to get to the HRC site where you can sign a petition and send the letter electronically):

I'm writing to let you know that I strongly support the Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 4530) that has been introduced in the House and is expected to be introduced in the Senate soon.

Public school students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) are subject to pervasive discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence.

These students, like all other students, deserve an educational environment free of discrimination and harassment.

But while federal statutory protections expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex and disability, LGBT students are not expressly protected by federal civil rights laws.

That is unacceptable.

This law would prohibit any school program or activity receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating against any public school student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity contributes to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement among LGBT youth. When left unchecked, such discrimination can lead, and has led to, life-threatening violence and suicide.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important issue.

Thanks to Daniel for the original link, to Stephen for letting me share his brilliant and passionate letter, and to all of you for caring so much!


ps: the original disco ball photo was from here and I added the "fake prom" text to it.


Unknown said...

Unbelievable. I just can't fathom why anyone would go to so much trouble over one student and her choices. That the parents and teachers collaborated in this issue is beyond disgusting.

Liz B said...

I am a bit impressed (but obviously not the good impressed) that these adults are so deluded that they believed they could do this and get away with it. The level of delusion! The level of having every one they known agree with them and supporting them and dissing "those" people who disagree. Yes, the whole situation is bad -- but that they thought they could get away with this is a whole other issue that is also disturbing. Because one begins to wonder what else happens, like this? And this just happens to be something that garnered enough attention to let the light it.

I also think this proves that conspiracies only work in a Dan Brown book. In real life? People talk (or, in this case, post to Facebook).

It's just disgusting.

Jacqui said...

That is absolutely ludicrous, and the most immature thing I have heard all week. For parents and teachers to encourage kids to keep a secret and to exclude someone like that is disgusting. I am shocked not one of the other kids told her!

Hayden said...

Frankly, I'm not surprised, but at the same time, I'm glad this came to light and did so to cast these "adults" in even proper light. Itawamba High School and all those involved in this farce just left their mark in history. I'm sure they're just basking in pride over that and the fact that people are now pushing their congressmen to pass laws protecting GLBT teens in school from discrimination like this. Way to go, haters.

Anonymous said...

The girl's name is Constance. The first half of your post refers to her as Candace.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Whoops! Thanks, anonymous, for pointing that out. It's corrected now. No disrespect to Constance intended!

MotherReader said...

I heard about this fake prom story and was horrified. I also wondered what happened to all of those people who had reached out and said that they would throw an inclusive prom. Leaving it it the parents' hands was exactly what the school had wanted.

The idea that the parents did this and the school went along with it is mindboggling

Daniel Teeter said...

As a civil rights issue you might argue that the school went to a lot of trouble to humiliate--and possibly abuse--her in a most public way. A firing or two might be in order here, at the very least. As someone else said, this is institutional (and possibly parental) bullying: A serious matter.

And how powerful was this kid anyway? Why were they so afraid of HER? Chances are she could've gone to the prom and not many would've paid much attention. Instead, they've created an international issue. The irony...!

Sundberg Studio said...

I want to preempt my comment with the fact that I am an advocate of gay rights and I believe that Constance should have been treated equally. But I do find your article misleading, and I am not fully convinced that the school attempted to "pull a fast one over Constance." This is a link to a local Mississippi paper that explains that Constance did know about the other event (though she may not have been directly invited to it). Link: http://nems360.com/view/full_story/6946554/article-UPDATE--McMillen-attends-sparse-Itawamba-prom?instance=home_news_1st_left

Of course this is a mess, and there are parents at fault here. And it is awful that the school wanted to cancel prom in the first place because of Constance's sexual orientation. But when I first read this post, I was really lead to believe something a bit different than what news articles are saying. I think it is important to be careful how we categorize a whole group of people and their intentions. Those who are homophobic tend to do this with the gay community, but we also have to be careful that we don't do it back to them. This needs to be a dialog and not an
"Us" vs. "Them" stalemate.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Sundberg Studio,
thanks for your thoughtful comment, though I have to say that when I read the article you linked to, it did once again seem like Constance was duped into believing that the prom she was attending was the "real" prom. She didn't know that everyone with the exception of 6 other students would be at the other prom, or at least that's how it sounds to me. I personally haven't spoken with her, so I'm relying on news reports and organizations like the ACLU and HRC for the information.
But your point of not further polarizing things is well taken - but my perspective is that if people aren't called on things like this, they'll continue to happen in the future. That I can't abide.

Karol S. said...

I found it interesting that, according to an article I read the day the "fake prom" was revealed (sorry I can't remember where), some of the other five students at the fake prom were learning disabled. So apparently students with disabilities are considered undesirable by Constance's school as well. There was a nice quote from Constance saying that she was happy the students with disabilities seemed to really enjoy themselves, freed of the fear of being made fun of. I don't know for sure, but it seems like excluding those kids had to violate the ADA in some way. Hopefully, kids who fall into the GLBT community will soon have the same type of all-encompassing rights as those covered by the ADA.

Elise said...

I found this so sad and unbelievable. This is just glorified bullying and if it was any other minority group being singled out there would be such outrage. My thoughts go out to Constance and her partner and hope she can hold her head high and realise that she is above all these petty 'grown-ups'.

BethMooreSchool said...

Thank you for this post. All too often it feels like there isn't much people can do about the outrageous and offensive things that people do (often in schools) to hurt other. You not only said to write letters, but you even gave us the addresses! Awesome. Thank you Lee.

Beth (TinyReader)

kittens not kids said...

I think it was in the Huffington Post that the presence of a couple of kids with disabilities at the "fake" prom was mentioned; that piece also mentions that the school principal (or superintendent, can't recall which) was one of the chaperons for the fake prom.

When I read about this fake-out prom, my heart broke. My heart still hurts about this, almost too much for me to even be actively angry. It's just SO unkind as to be almost beyond belief.

Graeme Stone said...

I'm woefully late coming to this debate, though I followed the story pretty closely. I'm intrigued by Sundberg Studio's comments the most. I applaud your efforts to bend over backwards to give everyone equality, but you leave one question unanswered. If the school, schoolboard, students, parents and teachers were NOT complicit in creating a diversion Prom, then what do you think happened? What is your version? How is it that this girl happened to end up exactly not anywhere near the prom she'd dreamed of? I can't imagine anything that would be logical, or absolve these backward people of guilt. It seems pretty occam's razor to me.