A Mississippi school has agreed to pay damages to a teenager who was barred from attending its school-prom with her girlfriend.
Itawamba County School then chose to cancel the event rather than let 18-year-old Constance McMillen attend with a female partner and wear a tuxedo.
School officials later put on a “decoy” prom for her while the rest of her classmates were at a seperate private prom.
McMillen, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sued the school, which on Tuesday agreed to implement a non-discrimination policy on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the first public school to do do in the state.
The school also agreed to pay McMillen $35,000 in damages and pay for her attorneys’ fees.
“I’m so glad this is all over. I won’t ever get my prom back, but it’s worth it if it changes things at my school,” said McMillen, who was harassed so badly by students blaming her for the prom cancellation that she had to transfer to another high school to finish her senior year.
“I hope this means that in the future students at my school will be treated fairly. I know there are students and teachers who want to start a gay-straight alliance club, and they should be able to do that without being treated like I was by the school.”
The ACLU said that an earlier ruling in the case also set an important precedent by confirming that school officials violated McMillen’s First Amendment rights when they cancelled the high school prom rather than let her attend.