A gay student caught in a battle with high school officials regarding her prom date is set to receive a $35,000 settlement from a discrimination lawsuit.
The student, Constance McMillen, was caught in the center of a recent storm of discrimination after announcing she would attend the high school prom with her girlfriend.
The Itawamba County School District then found itself in the center of a discrimination lawsuit, led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in announcing it would cancel the prom, scheduled to be held last April 2 at Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi.
At the time, the school board’s reasoning for the cancellation was “due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events,” according to a Huffington Post report.
However, thanks to the ACLU, who filed suit on Ms. McMillen’s behalf, the school district now has implemented an anti-discrimination policy based on sexual orientation or gender identity, giving new meaning to their “educational process.”
While the new policy comes as part of the settlement, school officials said in the settlement they did not believe Ms. McMillen's rights had been violated and a non-discrimination policy was in place before the incident. In the settlement, the school district also agrees to pay McMillen’s legal fees during the ordeal.
Hopeful that gay students will be treated fairly in the future, McMillen still had to change schools to finish out her studies for the academic year after receiving too much harassment at the rural school.
"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," Ms McMillen said, according to BBC.
"Constance went through a great deal of harassment and humiliation simply for standing up for her rights, and she should be proud of what she has accomplished," said Christine Sun, a senior lawyer with the ACLU.
"Thanks to her bravery, we now not only have a federal court precedent that can be used to protect the rights of students all over the country to bring the date they want to their proms, but we also have the first school anti-discrimination policy of its kind in Mississippi."
Lynn Hermann (digitaljournal.com) - 21 July 2010.