Lesbian teen accepts Miss. school district’s offer

Posted on 21 Jul 2010 at 11:45am

Prom case settlement includes $35K payment, nondiscrimination policy

SHELIA BYRD  |  Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. — A teenage lesbian who sued her school district over its ban of same-sex prom dates has accepted an offer to settle the case.

American Civil Liberties Union attorneys representing Constance McMillen filed notice Monday in U.S. District Court to accept a judgment offer from the Itawamba County School District to pay $35,000, plus attorney’s fees. As part of the agreement, the school district also said it would follow a policy not to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity in any educational or extracurricular activities.

The ACLU said the case is precedent-setting because the district is the first in Mississippi to implement a policy banning discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I’m so glad this is all over,” McMillen said in a statement Tuesday, July 20. “I won’t ever get my prom back, but it’s worth if it changes things at my school.”

A call to the school district in north Mississippi seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in March when the district canceled a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School after McMillen asked to bring her girlfriend to the event and wear a tuxedo.

The ACLU sought an injunction to force the district to hold the prom. U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson refused the demand, but he said in a March 23 ruling that the district had violated McMillen’s rights.

District officials said in the offer that they didn’t believe McMillen’s rights had been violated by anything they had done. The defendants in the case were district superintendent Teresa McNeece, Itawamba Agricultural High School principal Trae Wiygul and Rick Mitchell, assistant principal at IAHS.

The ACLU said McMillen was harassed by students after the prom was canceled. McMillen and the ACLU also said there had been a scheme in which she was sent to a “decoy” privately sponsored prom while her classmates attended a dance at another location.

“I hope this means that in the future students at my school will be treated fairly,” McMillen said.

McMillen eventually transferred from IAHS to a school in Jackson, Miss., to graduate this past spring.

Her case gained national attention and she was featured on television shows and served as a grand marshal for New York’s Gay Pride Parade, among numerous other events in which she participated.

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