by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
'Thanks for ruining my senior year.' That's what a high school student said to Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old Fulton, Mississippi high school senior, after her school district canceled her senior prom instead of allowing her to attend the celebration with her girlfriend.
McMillen admitted that she didn't want to return to school after the Itawamba County school board's decision, but her father told her she needed to face her classmates, teachers, and school officials.
"My daddy told me that I needed to show them that I'm still proud of who I am," McMillen told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. McMillen identifies as a Lesbian.
The Itawamba County School District announced on March 10 that it wouldn't host the April 2 prom "due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events."
The decision was voted in after the American Civil Liberties Union told the school board that a policy banning same-sex prom dates violated students' civil rights, and that not allowing McMillen to wear a tuxedo violated her free expression rights.
The statement did not mention McMillen or the ACLU. When asked by an Associated Press reporter if McMillen's actions led to the cancellation of the event, Itawamba County School Board attorney Michele Floyd said she could only reference the statement.
"I am a little bummed out about it," said Anna Watson, 17, a junior in the high school. "I guess it's a decision that had to be made. Either way someone was going to get disappointed. Either Constance was, or we were. I don't agree with homosexuality, but I can't change what another person thinks or does."
McKenzie Chaney, 16, said that she hadn't planned on attending the prom, but "it's kind of ridiculous that they can't let her wear the tuxedo and it all be over with."
Fulton Mayor Paul Walker said he supports the school district's decision, also noting that, "I think the community as a whole is probably in support of the school district."
Same-sex prom dates and cross-dressing are new issues for many high schools around the country, said Daryl Presgraves, a spokesman for GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network).
"A lot of schools actually react, rather than do the research and find out what the rights of these students are," said Presgraves.
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