Verdicts & Settlements

Lesbian Settles Prom Suit, Applauds School Policy Change

A Mississippi school district has agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a lawsuit by a lesbian teen denied the chance to attend a school-sponsored prom with a same-sex date.

The Itawamba County School District in Fulton also agreed to adopt a nondiscrimination policy that specifically protects gays and lesbians, according to stories in USA Today and the Clarion-Ledger.

Plaintiff Constance McMillen, 18, told the Clarion-Ledger she is relieved. “Not for the money, but the policies,” she said. “That’s going to change things for so many people at my school.”

McMillen was twice barred from the prom, her lawyers say, first when the school district canceled the event and second when she was directed to a decoy prom. Other students attended a parent-organized prom in a neighboring community. After McMillen’s fellow students blamed her for the controversy, she transferred to a school in Jackson, she told the Clarion-Ledger.

The school district still maintains it did not violate McMillen’s constitutional rights.

In March, a federal judge disagreed, ruling that McMillen’s First Amendment rights were violated. However the judge refused to force the school district to hold the prom. McMillen was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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