Mississippi schools: No proms, no yearbook pics for lesbians
Mississippi schools are developing quite a reputation for battling their lesbian students.
Just weeks after an Oxford-area high school made national news by canceling its prom rather than allowing a lesbian student to attend with a same-sex date, a Jackson-area lesbian high school senior who had been fighting for the right to appear in her yearbook dressed in a tuxedo has found that not only did her school not allow it — they cut her existence out of the yearbook altogether.
Not only does Ceara Sturgis’ photo not appear in the book, her name isn’t even listed.
“It’s like she’s nobody there, even though she’s gone to school there for 12 years,” the Jackson Free Press quoted Veronica Rodriguez, Sturgis’ mother. “They mentioned none of her accolades, even though she’s one of the smartest students there with wonderful grades. They’ve got kids in the book that have been busted for drugs. There’s even a picture of one of the seniors who dropped out of school.”
Rodriguez added: “I don’t get it. Ceara is a top student. Why would they do this to her?”
Sturgis discovered last Friday that she had been left out of the yearbook after a six-month-long fight with the school over her wish to appear in a tuxedo in her yearbook photo.
In October of 2009, the ACLU of Mississippi sent a letter on Sturgis’ behalf asking the school principal to change his decision rejecting Sturgis’ photo. County officials refused, the Free Press reports.
Lisa Derrick at FireDogLake reports that Sturgis’ sexuality isn’t a problem for her fellow students. “Fellow students nominated her to be prom queen, though she declined because she was concerned about how the administration would react,” Derrick reports.
School district officials have said they are well within their rights to reject Sturgis’ request. As precedent, they point to a 2004 Florida court decision that allows schools to enforce a dress code for yearbook photos.
But, according to the Free Press, the ACLU has rejected that argument in Sturgis’ case because that court case did not deal with students’ sexual orientation.
Last month, the ACLU joined Oxford high school senior Constance McMillen in demanding that her school reinstate its senior prom, which the school canceled after finding out McMillen planned to bring a same-sex date.
Instead, the school organized what appeared to have been a “decoy” prom at a local country club. When McMillen arrived, she found she was one of only six students present, including two who have mental disabilities.
It now appears that the Westboro Baptist Church, a notorious anti-gay hate group, plans to picket McMillen’s graduation ceremony, according to the New York Daily News.
McMillen has become something of a cause celebre for gay rights advocates. She was presented with a $30,000 scholarship by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, and was invited to participate in New York’s gay pride parade this June.