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School refuses to allow lesbian to wear tuxedo in yearbook photo

Jessica Geen October 21, 2009
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A school which barred a lesbian teenager from wearing a tux in her yearbook photo has said it will not reverse its decision.

Ceara Sturgis, 17, an openly gay senior at Wesson Attendance Center in Wesson, wore the garment for her yearbook photo.

She was subsequently told by school officials that unless she wore a dress or a drape, her photo would not appear in the book.

Sturgis then approached the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi, which sent a letter to Copiah County School District to demand that she be permitted to wear a tuxedo. The letter demanded a reply by October 23rd and threatened legal action.

The school has now released a statement to the Copiah County Courier, which read: “We have had our legal counsel research the validity of the position of the school district on this matter.

“We are informed by counsel that this exact issue has been litigated in federal court. The decisions of the federal courts completely support the policy of the district in this regard. It is the desire of the Copiah County School District to inform, first, the patrons of the district, and second, all other interested parties, that its position is not arbitrary, capricious or unlawful, but is based upon sound educational policy and legal precedent.”

Sturgis is said to be a popular, athletic student who is out and proud. In an interview last week, her mother Veronica Rodriguez said wearing men’s clothes was part of who she is.

Sturgis said in a statement: “I feel like I’m not important, that the school is dismissing who I am as a gay student and that they don’t even care about me. All I want is to be able to be me, and to be included in the yearbook.”

The letter from the ACLU cited the First Amendment, which protects self-expression, and the 14th Amendment, which prohibits public schools from engaging in gender discrimination.

In a press release, the organisation said: “Different treatment based on sex is constitutional only if supported by a significant governmental interest. The ACLU-MS certainly sees no significant governmental interest in barring girls from wearing tuxedos or forcing them to wear dresses/drapes.”

Sturgis reportedly plans to continue her battle to be allowed to wear the garment.

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