HRC Blog

Prom Shocker: Constance McMillan Invited to Fake Event; Other Students Attend Secret Prom

We’ve been following Itawamba student Constance McMillan’s struggle to attend prom with her girlfriend and wear the clothes of her choosing. A court decided her school was wrong to deny her attendance but stopped short of ordering them to hold the prom. So parents and private citizens offered to put on the prom, but details of that prom were mysterious and Constance wasn’t invited. Then it was reported that the mystery prom had been cancelled, but that another prom would be held at a country club in nearby Fulton, MS; Constance was invited and would be going to this prom. It took place this past Friday and was attended by exactly seven students – Constance, her date and five others, plus some teachers and the principal as chaperones. How could this be? Quite simply and horribly, the event at the country club was a ‘fake’ prom and all the other students attended the ‘real’ prom at another location. HRC's Candace Gingrich-Jones penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post on the subject writing:

I am sure your jaw dropped to the floor as mine did when I read the news. According to Constance, two of the five other attendees had learning difficulties – also apparently not worthy of the ‘good’ prom. There is so much going on here it’s hard to find a place to start figuring out how something so unconscionable could happen – but I will start with the students. We know young people can be cruel (ever seen the film “Mean Girls”?).   Homophobia and harassment of LGBT youth in schools often runs rampant – GLSEN’s 2007 school climate survey found that 9 out of 10 LGBT students were harassed in the previous year. We also know it isn’t just queer kids but anyone who is different faces the wrath of others as we sadly learned last week when Phoebe Prince, an Irish immigrant high school student in Massachusetts, took her own life after being mercilessly harassed and bullied as the ‘new girl’. Knowing this, it is not a stretch to think that Itawamba students would be totally fine with attending a secret prom while fellow ‘different’ students were sent to a fake one.

Today the Human Rights Campaign launched a petition to the Itawamba County School Board condemning their irresponsible actions.  We're also sending the school board "Welcoming Schools" -- a resource for school administrators who want to strengthen their schools by preventing gender stereotyping and bullying.  Add your name to the list!

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