PROMblems arising throughout the nation

April 23, 2010 — by Apeksha Sharma and Kim Tsai

As proms come and go, many students are getting geared up towards finding the perfect everything for the dance. The perfect dress, the perfect shoes and perfect hair are common, but for a Mississippi student named Constance McMillen, 18, prom means having to go to court to fight for her right to attent.

As a lesbian, she is battling her school district for the right to attend the dance at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Miss. Amazingly enough, the district and a group of parents even created a fake prom in which students with disabilities and social outcasts such as McMillen were told was the real prom.

The fact that a school district, an organization meant to benefit its students, can so easily outcast many is appalling. Clearly this small county of Itawamba, Miss., is far from reaching the social justice that is at least aspired to in many schools in California.

The limitations set by the school board was upsetting to many. Students were told that their prom date was required to be of the opposite sex, in response to which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) jumped into action to help McMillen get the justice she and other homosexual classmates deserve.

McMillen’s case was by no means unique. Derrick Martin, an open homosexual at his school in Cochran, Ga., requested to bring a male date to his senior prom. Unlike McMillen’s struggle, Martin was granted his request and allowed to bring his date. However, according to The Advocate, his story made headlines in the community, and soon Martin was physically threatened. “I’ve actually been threatened to be shot at,” he told the publication. “Someone told me I should watch where I’m going when I ride around town, because they would be riding around with a gun.”

Similarly, McMillen had been getting hate from students after they learned that not only was McMillen not allowed to attend the prom, but the entire event would be cancelled. Recently, various groups have popped up on Facebook against Constance, such as “Constance Stop Your Whining.”

In both of these situations, McMillen and Martin endured hate that no child should ever be put through. Schools and parents need to realize that being gay—and publicly gay at that—is one of the toughest decisions a young person can make, and young people who come forward in this manner deserve support rather than ridicule. It is in no way just for McMillen identity to be rejected.

Martin showed strength as he won his appeal yet was emotionally defeated after being kicked out of his house by angry and shocked parents. Perhaps this is less of an issue with courts in America, and more a rising issue of discrimination, which has been rearing its ugly head more and more frequently, especially concerning the LGBT community.

Kids are an unfortunate casualty of this prejudice, and it is for their sake that steps should be taken to ensure that their personal freedoms are protected. While today’s America may be bigoted and homophobic, it is not too late to ensure future generations are more tolerant by setting a positive example and promoting acceptance and inclusiveness.