Alabama School Bars Lesbian Student From Attending Prom With Her Girlfriend

jeff's picture

ACLU Calls School's Actions Unconstitutional

RUSSELLVILLE, AL – The American Civil Liberties Union today demanded that Franklin County School System officials reverse its decision that a lesbian student can’t attend the school prom with her girlfriend. Cynthia Stewart, a junior at Tharptown High School, approached the ACLU for assistance after school officials denied her request for the upcoming March 25 prom.

"I can't believe my school is doing all of this just to keep me from bringing my girlfriend to the prom," said Stewart, a 17-year-old student who, as a member of the prom planning committee, has personally raised over $200 for the prom and created the theme her classmates chose for the dance. "All I want is to be able to be myself and go to my prom with the person I love, just like any other student wants to do."

Stewart's aunt and guardian, Kathy Baker, approached ACLU of Alabama board member and local attorney Henry F. Sherrod III last week for assistance after the school announced it was cancelling the prom. Baker had approached the school board to appeal the principal's earlier decision that Stewart could not bring her girlfriend to the dance, but her plea on behalf of her niece was turned down. Some teachers told classes last Thursday that prom was being canceled altogether as a way to avoid having to let Cynthia bring her date. Finally, at least one teacher made statements to students Monday indicating that the prom is back on, but there has still been no reversal on the decision that Stewart can’t bring her girlfriend to the event.

"It's just sad to see this school twisting itself in so many different directions to avoid its constitutional obligations to one student," said Sherrod. "Cynthia doesn't just deserve to be able to take her girlfriend with her to the prom like any other student – she has a federally-protected right to do so."

In today's letter to Franklin County School System officials, the ACLU cited cases both in Alabama state court as well as federal court guaranteeing students' First Amendment right to bring same-sex dates to school dances. In addition to illegally canceling the prom, the ACLU said that Tharptown High School's principal further violated Stewart's First Amendment rights by requiring her to remove a sticker she was wearing at school that read, "I'm a Lesbian." Stewart said that when she told the principal she had a First Amendment right to wear the sticker, he replied, "You don't have that much freedom of speech at school."

"Federal law makes it absolutely clear that Franklin County School System doesn't have any right to discriminate against lesbian, gay, and bisexual students who want to bring same-sex dates to school dances," said Christine P. Sun, Senior Counsel with the ACLU national Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, who represents Stewart along with Sherrod. "We hope that our telling the school about its legal obligations towards its students will make it think again about treating Cynthia Stewart like a second-class citizen."

The ACLU has given the school district until November 20 to respond to its letter.

Additional information, including a copy of the ACLU's demand letter, is available at http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/russellville-alabama-school-prom-discrim....

fox333's picture

That is the stupidest thing

That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of.

I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.
Oscar Wilde

kuu2's picture

hahaha.

that is ridiculous but i wanna see how this pans out cuz i wanna take a girl to prom this year or next and need to see how i can counter any opposistion if it arises.

Life is easily complicated.

swimmerguy's picture

You should just...

The Constitution is "the supreme law of the land", and it protects you to bring whoever you want to the prom.

If you're going through hell, keep going. ~Winston Churchill

jeff's picture

easy...

Call the ACLU

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"People who are happy are slugs... They do not move the human race forward."
-- Camille Paglia, on Oasis

jeff's picture

Update...

Alabama School Reverses Decision To Bar Lesbian Student From Attending Prom With Her Girlfriend

RUSSELLVILLE, AL – The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded Franklin County School System officials for reversing their decision barring a lesbian student from attending the school prom with her girlfriend.

The School System’s about-face, permitting 17-year-old Tharptown High School junior Cynthia Stewart to bring her girlfriend to the upcoming March 25 prom, came after the ACLU sent a letter to the school on November 10 demanding that their initial decision be reversed.

"All I wanted all along was to be myself and have a fun night at prom like any other student," said Stewart. "Prom’s going to be amazing, and I can’t wait to walk in that door with my girlfriend on my arm."

Stewart, a member of the prom planning committee, who personally raised over $200 for the event and created the theme her classmates chose for it, was told by her principal earlier this month that she would not be allowed to bring her girlfriend to the dance.

Stewart's aunt and guardian, Kathy Baker, approached ACLU of Alabama board member and local attorney Henry F. Sherrod III for assistance after the school board turned down her appeal of the principal's decision. Some teachers announced in classes that prom was being canceled altogether as a way to avoid having to let Cynthia bring her date.

"It’s unfortunate that we had to step in to remind this school of its constitutional obligations to its students, but we’re pleased that they’re finally doing the right thing," said Sherrod. "Schools should treat all students equally, and not have a separate set of rules for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students."

In its letter to Franklin County School System officials, the ACLU cited cases both in Alabama state court and federal court guaranteeing students' First Amendment right to bring same-sex dates to school dances.

"Schools everywhere would do well to take note of this school’s decision to obey Federal law and not discriminate against students who want to bring same-sex dates to school dances," said Christine P. Sun, Senior Counsel with the ACLU national Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, who represents Stewart along with Sherrod. "By standing up for herself, Cynthia Stewart has stood up for LGBT students all over the country."

Additional information, including a short video about Stewart’s story and a copy of the school’s letter, is available at http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/russellville-alabama-school-prom-discrim....

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"People who are happy are slugs... They do not move the human race forward."
-- Camille Paglia, on Oasis

WHY_FIGHT's picture

i hate people

canceling the prom just because one student has a different preference than anyone else is just downright idoitic

When life Gives you Lemons, through them back at life and say, "screw you go make your own lemonade!"

JB's picture

It would be interesting to

It would be interesting to see if the school baord issues some kind of statement about this, or it's excuse for it all.

jeff's picture

Eh...

Never happen. The school probably doesn't care, as long as they are being ordered to have the prom and allow the student to attend, it gives them an out with their school board, which is *usually* where the religious wackos infiltrate and try to set the agenda.

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"People who are happy are slugs... They do not move the human race forward."
-- Camille Paglia, on Oasis