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US lesbian student sues school after being excluded from yearbook

Jessica Geen August 18, 2010
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An American teenager is suing her school district after being excluded from the yearbook for wearing a tuxedo in her photo.

Ceara Sturgis, 18, is a lesbian and prefers to wear masculine clothing.

She wore a tux for her yearbook photo last year but Wesson Attendance Center told her she would not be included in the book unless she wore a drape, which looks like a dress.

The school, in Mississippi, refused to back down after she complained and the yearbook did not even list her name.

Ms Sturgis is now suing Copiah County School District for violating her rights, namely Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex and sex stereotypes, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

She is being assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has a history of taking legal action to protect LGBT students’ rights.

Ms Sturgis said: “I went to school with my classmates my whole life, and it hurts that I’m not included in my senior yearbook as part of my graduating class. I never thought that my school would punish me just for being who I am.”

In the complaint filed by the ACLU, she was described as a popular, sporty student who had not previously encountered problems with her choice of clothing.

Christine P Sun, senior counsel with the ACLU’s LGBT Project, added: “Inclusion in the senior yearbook is a rite of passage for students, and it is shameful that Ceara was denied that chance.

“It’s unfair and unlawful to force students to conform to outdated notions about what boys and girls should look like without any regard to who they actually are as people.”

The school district has not yet returned calls for comment.

Earlier this year, another lesbian Mississippi student began a legal battle after being barred from attending prom with her date and being required to wear a dress.

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

More: Americas

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