High schools shouldn’t discriminate against same-sex couples

By Colin Shively

In Fulton, Miss., senior Constance McMillen approached her prom committee to purchase senior prom tickets for her and her date. However, according to Itawamba County Agricultural High School’s policies, she couldn’t attend the prom—because she wanted to bring her girlfriend.

Then the high school did something radical and illogical; they cancelled the prom because a same-sex couple wanted to enjoy a night of dancing together and spending time with friends. There is no harm in allowing a same-sex couple to attend a school dance.

In defense of the decision, the administrators at Itawamba County Agricultural High School said it was against their school policies to allow same-sex couples to attend a prom together and also for girls to wear tuxedos, which is what McMillen wanted to do.

The worst part of this entire ordeal is that the school did, in fact, have a prom. However, it was a secret prom to which McMillen and several other students were neither invited nor informed of. The secret prom, according to McMillen, was put on by the school and she was not told about the dance nor where it was held.

Is this the 21st century, or are public schools still stuck in the 1900s? The mere thought of a public school canceling an entire prom because gay students wanted to attend is revolting. This is a hate crime in every sense of the term. Once word got about the incident, the American Civil Liberties Union backed McMillen and filed a lawsuit to reinstate the prom and allow her and her partner to attend.

It is becoming more apparent that receiving equal rights and privileges for the LGBTQ community may take longer than expected. It is a shame to say that. It is even more shameful to call myself an American when our own educational system is planting the seed of discrimination and hate in students and children that will one day grow to become leaders of this so called “land of the free.” Seems more like “land of the free, with a few exceptions” to me.

Why is it that a public school was so against allowing a same-sex couple to attend a social gathering? Was it out of fear of being criticized by parents? We know it was not for the protection of McMillen and her partner because the school would have stated so. I hope it was not based on religious standards—if so, it would have been highly illegal. In the end, it was more than likely the age-old discrimination that haunts America and most of the world where people fear that LGBTQ individuals will have a negative impact on other youth.

Why parents and the school system refused to allow McMillen and her girlfriend to mingle with the other students at a school event is a question that might never be answered. However, the nation should try to learn why hate and misunderstanding are being taught and displayed in the educational systems of this nation, and correct the problem. This is the 21st century and we are long overdue for a change.

It is the duty of schools to teach tolerance of various cultures and social practices. Isn’t that why most schools have some sort of cultural studies class? If this nation ever has the hope to become the best in the world, then it must begin in the school systems where education and cultural understanding starts. Students should not be told to think that people are inferior based on their sexual orientation or by any other means. Students should be taught that understanding different people will lead to a more prosperous and happy future because we will no longer judge people on who they are or whom they love.

I praise McMillen and the ACLU’s efforts to change the policies of the school system and to raise awareness of the injustice made against her and her personal rights. The LGBTQ equal rights movement has made leaps and bounds to ensure we are all treated equally in the eyes of the law, but sadly there are many more hurdles to overcome before that’s a reality.