Teen prank or school slipup? Announcement says same-sex couples banned from Port Arthur prom

Posted on 21 Feb 2012 at 6:14pm

Memorial High School in Port Arthur

Students at Memorial High School in Port Arthur got a message loud and clear Thursday: no gay couples at the school’s May prom.

During the school’s student-run announcements, one discriminatory sound bite was slipped in about same-sex couples being turned away from the dance.

Deputy Superintendent Mark Porterie emailed a statement to Dallas Voice today clarifying that no student would be turned away from the prom.

“The PAISD administration is aware of the statement that was made and will handle the situation with staff to ensure that no student is inappropriately prevented from participation in prom,” the statement said. “The district will adhere to its responsibility to insure [SIC] that no student is discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Porterie told 12 News that all announcements are approved before they are read over the intercom and the district was looking into who may have authorized it.

A Port Arthur ISD spokeswoman said she was unsure if the students were reprimanded for the announcement or if they even had authorization.

While the school has had several same-sex couples attend prom in the past, according to former students who spoke to 12 News, the larger issue of possible humor or fear-mongering against same-sex couples should be addressed, said Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal who’s based in Dallas.

“The larger picture is if some students thought it was funny to try and discourage gay students from attending,” Upton said. “Even if it wasn’t an official announcement, the school needs to do something about it.”

While public schools are required to follow federal regulations by allowing any and all students to attend prom with the date of their choice, Upton said he had not heard of a specific Texas case where same-sex students were shunned from attending prom.

“Students should be able to go to their prom and feel safe,” Upton said.

For more information about prom rights for LGBT youth, see Lambda Legal’s guide.

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