With spring upon us, many high school teens across our land turn their thoughts to that annual rite of passage, the senior prom. If you are gay and attend Agriculture High-school in Itawamba County, Mississippi, however, you won’t be welcome. This follows a recent decision by the local school board that had the school district cancel the planned senior prom rather than allow an 18-year-old lesbian student attend wearing a tuxedo and accompanied by her girlfriend.

The story of Constance McMillen has been reported in a number of media outlets including CBS news and tells of the flap caused by McMillen’s intention of attending her senior prom. McMillen simply desired to escort her girlfriend to the prom and dress up for the occasion, just as other teens have done to celebrate the tradition.

According to CBS news, a Feb. 5 memo to students laid out the criteria for bringing a date to the prom, and one requirement was that the person must be of the opposite sex. Enter the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU told board members the restriction violated the students’ rights and not allowing McMillen to wear a tux violated her expression rights. Rather than fight the challenge put forth, the school board had the district cancel the senior prom citing “distractions to the educational process caused by recent events.”

Just what part of the educational process are they concerned about? Is it the notion that people wear tuxedos to formal events? Perhaps it is the part of the educational process that confuses civil rights with the idea that these are exercised only when convenient or only for people who think and act like “us.”

Clearly the student body is getting quite an education and one that couldn’t be more distracting from a call for tolerance and understanding in a community that suffered greatly from such omissions mere decades ago during the racially charged civil rights era when it was sheets and hoods, not tuxedos that were cause for concern.

The school board’s decision means that the values and moral judgment of a few will impact the entire senior class, robbing them of their only chance for what would ordinarily be a celebratory and joyful event.

McMillen has stood tall during the entire ordeal and gained inspiration from the knowledge that her actions will help people “later on.” She said upon return to class this week, she was singled out by classmates for “ruining the senior year” for many.

No Ms. McMillen, your classmates can thank the school board for that.

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Michael J. Solender

Michael J. Solender

Michael J. Solender is a recent corporate refugee whose opinion and satire has been featured in The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Winston-Salem Journal, and Richmond Style Weekly. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for The Charlotte Observer and is the City Life Editor for Charlotte ViewPoint. His micro-fiction has been featured online at Bull Men’s Fiction, Calliope Nerve, Danse Macabre, Dogzplot, Gloom Cupboard, Full of Crow, Pangur Ban Party and others.

You can find more of his work at his website and also at his blog.