A school district in northern Mississippi has cancelled its high school prom rather than let a lesbian student wearing a tuxedo attend with her girlfriend.
Sound familiar? Yes, resistance-by-avoidance is a favorite tactic of those who don’t want to extend equal rights to one group of people or another.
After the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, we saw it when some southern communities shut down their public schools rather than integrate them. The private schools that replaced them were, of course, segregated.
And, as the film Prom Night in Mississippi showed, at least one Mississippi school managed to delay staging an integrated prom until 2008.
Suddenly, school officials in Itawamba County have discovered that proms create “a distraction to the educational process.” Funny they never noticed before—any teacher could have told them that.
In an official statement, school officials expressed hope that “private citizens will organize an event for our juniors and seniors.”
Of course, private citizens aren’t obligated—as public schools are—to guarantee equal protection to everyone. So we imagine that this particular lesbian couple won’t be welcome at any private gala, either.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Last fall, one school in Alabama tried to do the same thing for the same reason. The school first cancelled its prom. But under the threat of an ACLU lawsuit, district officials backed off and did the right thing. In that case, the lesbian couple in question is now welcome to attend prom on March 25. We hope they have a wonderful time.