A Mississippi school district has agreed to pay a recent high school graduate $35,000 in damages and adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to a statement released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Itawamba County School District officials agreed to have a judgment entered against them in the case of 18-year-old Constance McMillen, who sued her school for canceling the prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend.
The agreement ends a precedent-setting lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of McMillen, who suffered humiliation and harassment after parents, students and school officials executed a plan to put on a “decoy” prom for her while the rest of her classmates were at a private prom 30 miles away.
“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.”
According to court documents, school officials agreed to implement a policy banning discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the first policy to do so at a public school in the state of Mississippi.
The school also agreed to pay McMillen $35,000 in damages and pay for McMillen’s attorneys’ fees.
“We hope this judgment sends a message to schools that they cannot get away with discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. LGBT youth just want to be treated like their peers and do all the normal high school things, like going to the prom with the date they choose,” said Bear Atwood, Interim Legal Director at the ACLU of Mississippi.