Mississippi School Defends Decision to Cancel Prom; Ellen DeGeneres, Wanda Sykes Reach Out in Response

An attorney for the Itawamba County School District said on Friday that the district cancelled its prom because of “escalating circumstances, [that were] disruptive to the school environment,” according to the Jackson, Miss. newspaper The Clarion Ledger.

That argument comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which says that the district breached the constitutional rights of 18-year-old Constance McMillen when school officials denied McMillen’s request to bring her girlfriend to the event. McMillen was also told that she would not be admitted to the dance if she chose to wear a tuxedo.

“This is not an issue where anyone has been denied an education or suffered a constitutional deprivation,” school board attorney Benjamin Griffith wrote in a district court filing. “Rather, this is a social event that, in light of rapidly escalating circumstances, was disruptive to the school environment because people are on all sides of the issue.”

But as ACLU attorney Christine Sun points out, circumstances did not “escalate” until the district cancelled the prom altogether:

"Long before this became an issue in the media, [the school] had told Constance that she could not bring her girlfriend to the prom. Really it was the school board's decision to cancel the prom that became the big news story."

Court papers also indicate that parents have organized a private prom to which McMillen has not been invited.

USA Today reported on Saturday that another student at the high school said that McMillen is not welcome at the private event:

"Constance and her gay-activist friends will not be attending. They can go have their own prom because we certainly do not want any of them there."

Meanwhile, McMillen’s story continues to resonate with countless advocates and allies across the country.

Ellen DeGeneres featured McMillen on her daytime talk show last Friday and offered up quite a surprise. In conjunction with the website Tonic.com, DeGeneres awarded McMillen a $30,000 scholarship for her college endeavors. Tonic.com also offered McMillen an internship in their New York City offices for the summer.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZjC_XcBMyo[/youtube]

Comedian Wanda Sykes also featured McMillen on her program earlier this month and asked McMillen to present her with the Stephen F. Kolzak Award at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles. McMillen said she “would be happy to do it.”

GLAAD will continue to follow developments in this story. Updates can be found on GLAADblog.org