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Lesbian teenager banned from prom wins $35,000 damages in settlement

Jessica Geen July 20, 2010
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A lesbian teenager who was barred from attending her Mississippi school’s prom with her girlfriend has settled her case with the school district.

Constance McMillen, 18, won $35,000 in damages, plus an agreement from Itawamba County School District to implement anti-discrimination policies.

The Itawamba Agricultural High School student was told earlier this year she could not arrive at the event with her girlfriend and the two could not wear tuxedos or dance together.

When the teenager filed a lawsuit, the school cancelled the event rather than allow her to attend in the same way as any other student.

The school later agreed to hold an inclusive prom, but Ms McMillen arrived to discover she had been invited to a fake event, while her heterosexual classmates were enjoying a private event in another location.

She sued the school district with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Yesterday, they accepted a settlement offer of $35,000 plus attorney fees, in addition to an agreement by the school district to follow a policy not to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity in any educational or extracurricular activities.

Ms McMillen, who was so badly harassed by other students she had to move schools, said: “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.

“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.”

Christine P Sun, senior counsel with the ACLU LGBT Project, said: “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.

“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.”

The school district has not yet commented on the decision.

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