Last month, we covered the decision of a Mississippi public school to cancel its senior prom rather than let Constance McMillen, a lesbian student, bring a female date. At the time, the school urged parents to organize a "private event" in lieu of a prom.
According to several news sources, the parents heeded that advice, organizing a private prom for most of the school and tricking McMillen and her date into attending a separate, sparsely attended "fake prom" on the same evening. McMillen went public, telling her story to the Advocate:
A parent-organized prom happened behind her back — she and her date were sent to a Friday night event at a country club in Fulton, Miss., that attracted only five other students. Her school principal and teachers served as chaperones, but clearly there wasn't much to keep an eye on.
"They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them," McMillen says. "The one that I went to had seven people there, and everyone went to the other one I wasn’t invited to."
While some in the blogosphere have been cautious to confirm McMillen's story, Gawker's Richard Lawson uncovered prom-like photos on Facebook of several of McMillen's classmates that seem to fit with her account. (Firedoglake's Lisa Derrick found more evidence to that effect.) Many pundits have gone straight to excoriating the parents and the Itawamba County School District.
- Saddest School in America Change.org's Michael Jones offers McMillen and the others who attended the faux prom a message of support. "By standing up for your convictions and each other, you've shown an entire country that no matter how young you are, you're never too young to stand up against prejudice and inequality," he writes. Turning his attention to the school district, Jones doesn't hide his disgust.
Meanest school district in America? You could probably say that. But I'd rather label it the saddest school district in America, if these allegations prove true. They blew an opportunity to unite students rather than divide them. And they'll come out of all of this with a national reputation somewhere between salmonella and e coli.
- Throwback to a Repugnant Culture Though he's equally sympathetic to McMillen's plight, Mother Jones' Adam Weinstein believes the story is about more than this isolated incident. "The story's not really about her," he argues. "It's about a homogenized school district trying to preserve a down-South culture so exclusive and mean-spirited, it seems like a caricature ripped from a child's book report on To Kill a Mockingbird. And McMillen's not the only victim."
- This Is a Judicial Failure At the Huffington Post, Emmy Ruby-Sachs chastises the judge who ruled the school district did not have to hold a prom and invite McMillen and her date, calling the decision "a cop out and a failure of the justice system." Shaking her head, she adds: "I am appalled, but not surprised. This is why we need good judges willing to make hard decisions: because without their protection, the tyranny of the majority will always win out."