I am outraged that a school in Jackson, Miss., has canceled its senior prom because one of its students, Constance McMillen, 18 — an openly gay senior — wants to take her girlfriend as her date. Oh, and she can’t wear a tux either!
We live in a free country where people should not be discriminated against based on their race, creed or sexual orientation. As a psychologist, when I hear about these stories of such blatant discrimination and ignorance, I am appalled and disgusted. It is more disturbing to know that this despicable conduct comes from people in power — such as the Itawamba County School Board.
These are adults who should be concerned with the well-being of their students, not creating barriers for them and fueling bigoted beliefs within their own community. The school board should be more concerned with the number of teen suicides (which are often caused by teens feeling as though they cannot be openly gay for fear of hatred, ridicule and violence). Rather than create a safe place for our teens, adults on the Itawamba County School Board have created a cauldron of hate within the school. These shameful adults have created an environment where it is seen as acceptable to treat gays, lesbians or anyone different as “others.”
Constance’s peers in high school are angry with her. Many of them are telling her that she has ruined their prom and their senior year. These students have a right to be angry, but their frustration should be squarely focused on the close-minded adults around them. The pressure now put on this teen is enormous, and it is directly due to the school board and their ignorance. The school board better hope and pray that nothing happens to this young girl, her girlfriend or their families at the hands of her peers (or anyone else in this community) because of their inflammatory stance — or they may be dealing with more than just a lawsuit due to discrimination. (The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU this week.)
The grace and courage of this young woman should be applauded. Constance is brave and wise beyond her years. She is clearly aware that her actions to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians in the school system will help kids who are openly gay in years to come. Her father encouraged her to go back to school after the news broke about the prom being cancelled. He told her to hold her head up high and be proud of who she is no matter what others may be saying. I am sure he will be right by his daughter’s side, fighting against this injustice. I know I would be organizing the biggest protest I could, renting her that tux and hosting the prom at my house!
What would you do if this were your daughter and your school district?