Itawamba Lesbian Teen: ‘It Was Pretty Bad' | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Itawamba Lesbian Teen: ‘It Was Pretty Bad'

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Itawamba County Agricultural High School teen Constance McMillen has agreed to accept an offer by Itawamba County School District to pay her $35,000.

Itawamba County Agricultural High School student Constance McMillen says she is relieved by the Itawamba County School District's offer of $35,000 for damages plus court costs, and adoption of an anti-discriminatory policy on sexual preference or gender identity.

The settlement ends a lawsuit McMillen filed against the district earlier this year after officials canceled her school prom rather than allow the lesbian to attend with her girlfriend.
McMillen told the Jackson Free Press today that she felt isolated after the canceled prom caused resentment from her peers.

"I'd always had really good grades but I was concerned that I was just going to have to drop out of school," said McMillen, who moved to Jackson to finish her senior year at Murrah High School. "People were talking about me, messaging me on Facebook and MySpace, everywhere I went. Every time I saw somebody they'd start whispering and talking about me. I was walking through the lunchroom one day and people started booing. It was pretty bad."

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of McMillen, 18, saying the teen suffered "humiliation and harassment" after parents, students and school officials executed a plan to put on a "decoy" prom for her while the rest of her classmates were at a private prom 30 miles away.

"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," McMillen said in a statement. "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."

The ACLU claims that after officials canceled the original prom date, parents "organized a private prom at which district officials told a federal judge McMillen and her date would be welcome." The ACLU argues that parents seeking to discourage McMillen's attendance canceled that private prom. Instead the parents put together a decoy prom for McMillen and her date and another prom for the rest of the class at another location.

McMillen and her date attended the event the school had told her was "the prom for juniors and seniors" on April 2, according to the ACLU, but discovered only seven other students attending.  The ACLU accuses Itawamba Agricultural High School principal Trae Wiygul and several school staff members of supervising the decoy prom while most of McMillen's classmates were at the other prom in Evergreen, Miss.

Defendants in the case, which also includes Itawamba County School District Superintendent Teresa McNeece, Wiygul, and school assistant principal Rick Mitchell, specifically agreed in the settlement "not to discriminate on the basis of race, age, national origin, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender or religion in any of the educational or extracurricular programs, activities, and services offered or otherwise made available by or through" the district.

The defendants also agreed to enforce a policy to "maintain a learning environment that is free of harassment, bullying, and discrimination," including bullying or harassment over sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, socioeconomic status or disability. The district also agreed to consider the tolerance of stated harassment or bullying to be a violation of the policy, be it committed by student or district employee.

An ACLU statement described the settlement as "the first school anti-discrimination policy of its kind in Mississippi."

Previous Comments

ID
158749
Comment

Sounds a lot of unnecessary trouble for a result that both sides can live with. It cost the school district a pile of money and Ms. McMillan a lot of grief.

Author
Psyclist
Date
2010-07-20T14:47:19-06:00
ID
158750
Comment

I am saddened that Constance McMillen had to endure all this pain this past year. I hope the settlement and the anti-discrimination policy will allow for some healing to occur for her and her family.

Author
Rev. Fred L Hammond
Date
2010-07-20T14:54:23-06:00
ID
158751
Comment

Go Murrah! I had no idea JPS was so progressive.

Author
dd39203
Date
2010-07-20T15:00:15-06:00
ID
158752
Comment

What's the response of the supposedly homophobic school administrators, parents, and teachers? Did they overnight magically change from neo-cons to neo-libs? I want official comments, rather than the hushed whispers I assume will now dominate the landscape. I doubt very few of those in the actual population changed their views of homosexual behavior, or are apologizing. Amazing what people will do when their pocketbooks are threatened. Once again just proves that the only color that matters is green! My prediction is that church sermons in the area will grow all the more fiery, about how the gay elites are forcing their agenda down their throats, and the tea party will set up new headquarters in Itawamba. Then Fred Phelps will show up and picket the school, confusing the neo-cons into choosing between hating the gays or hating the people that hate the gays. I heart Fred Phelps!

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-20T15:32:18-06:00
ID
158753
Comment

Rev, that's very big of you to come on here to express your thoughts. A lot of so-called men of the cloth often say hateful things about people they deem are not living the "right" way. Whether being a gay/lesbian is right or wrong, no one should be condemed for being one. This writer is not gay but I don't believe in discrimination.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2010-07-20T15:57:08-06:00
ID
158760
Comment

Golden Eagle: I agree. If God is Love, and If God created this world with all of its diversity, then wouldn't Love also be revealed in all of its diversity? I believe this to be true. So whether a person is gay, straight, or bi; what is important is do they love? That was considered the most important commandment according to Jesus. To love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and to love your neighbor as your self. And as another Rabbi stated regarding this great commandment, all the rest is commentary.

Author
Rev. Fred L Hammond
Date
2010-07-20T18:55:34-06:00
ID
158762
Comment

@golden eagle That's because Mr. Hammond is not Southern Baptist or Roman Catholic.

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-20T19:28:30-06:00
ID
158786
Comment

DrumminD, care to explain that last comment? Why single out the Baptists and Catholics in a discussion on gender and homosexuality? I'm hoping you didn't mean to imply (and without citing references) that those two communities are not progressive in this field, but please elaborate.

Author
Ricky Kidd
Date
2010-07-22T07:07:09-06:00
ID
158788
Comment

Ricky, I hope you're not suggesting that Southern Baptists are progressive on gay rights. Because nothing could be further from the truth. This discussion of the Southern Baptist Convention's positions on homosexuality may shed some light. Among other dubious claims, SBC has held: People can change their sexual orientation. Homosexual orientation is not "caused" by hormonal imbalance or genetic factors, but by an unhealthy relationship with one's parents. Homosexuals can only lead moral lives by remaining celibate. Discrimination against gays and lesbians is proper, in the areas of employment, to protect the family, and to protect social institutions. If you believe this description is unfair to the SBC, please make your case. But it is clear that Southern Baptists are far, far from progressive on homosexuality.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2010-07-22T10:31:45-06:00
ID
158789
Comment

Lol. In case my implication, wasn't clear, the Southern Baptist Convention and Roman Catholic Church are homophobic, as is most of Christianity, Rev. Fred L. Hammond excluded. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/7719789/Pope-says-gay-marriage-is-insidious-and-dangerous.html "The Pope condemned same sex marriage as a "dangerous and insidious" challenge to society in an address to half a million Catholic faithful." Doing a google search will let you find anything these days. I didn't even have to "research." That took literally 5 seconds. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/18/AR2010061804890.html "Southern Baptists Convention fighting 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal" Now what? Say something!

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-22T10:35:40-06:00
ID
158801
Comment

Brian, I'm highlighting the fact that DrumminD stereotyped two complex groups together without bothering to provide actual research on either. I won't defend the SBC because I'm not intimately familiar with them; however, the Roman Catholic Church is a damn sight more progressive than DrumminD would ever suggest. Fortunately, DrumminD helped prove the point by referencing his argument with the Catholic Church in a news article on a website whose Editor Choice items right now include an interview with Cameron Diaz and discussions on toilet graffiti and fine wine. Good choice for your statistical backup! Of course, D didn't reference the actual Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official document of the faith that DOES spell out what the church teaches throughout the world. Here's what the church actually believes about McMillen's situation: § 2358 "[People of homosexual orientation] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." (http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm#IV) Avoiding "every sign of unjust discrimination" sounds pretty similar to the ACLU's position in McMillen's case, doesn't it? Note the discussion of orientation, not marriage, which is (after all) the topic in McMillen's case. DrumminD veers off into the topic of gay marriage in the follow-up comment, which may be valid, but irrelevant. So, D, if you've got a point, make it, but have some accurate firepower behind you when you do. And Brian, there's my response for separating the SBC and Catholic views on homosexuality.

Author
Ricky Kidd
Date
2010-07-23T05:29:18-06:00
ID
158802
Comment

Rev Fred - I've seen your blog, and I'm glad you are posting here. I feel we share some of the same goals. I work for www.faithandreason.org here in Jackson, where we support progressive views of faith. I worked for 2 years at a UU congregation in California. Please keep sharing your views and I also agreed with your column about the MPB issue. I think sadly your analysis was probably accurate.

Author
Izzy
Date
2010-07-23T07:55:39-06:00
ID
158810
Comment

Wow, I didn't realize this was going to turn into a book report, that I needed to provide and annotated bibliography. You're criticizing me because I referenced the Catholic's church position on gay marriage rather than their official position concerning Constance? Seriously? That's the problem with "you people." You separate denying gay marriage from other acts of discrimination against gays, as if the two can be separated. "I am progressive and I really hope gays are treated equally and not abused, but I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, so gays, you can't get married. Oh, and don't have sex either, that's immoral." You have to give the gays ALL rights, not just some. Go big or go home. Anyways, here is my annotated bibliography. http://www.catholic.com/library/Homosexuality.asp "Even if there is a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality (and studies on this point are inconclusive), the behavior remains unnatural because homosexuality is still not part of the natural design of humanity. It does not make homosexual behavior acceptable; other behaviors are not rendered acceptable simply because there may be a genetic predisposition toward them." http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/sep/09092910.html The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the US and abroad was a matter of homosexuals preying on adolescent boys, not one of pedophilia, said the Vatican's representative at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. It is "more correct," said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males, than pedophilia, in relation to the scandals. http://www.startribune.com/yourvoices/90317507.html Despite a growing controversy that threatens to undermine the "moral authority" of the Catholic Church, the institution is bringing a pair of gay marriage opponents to the Twin Cities to talk about the immorality associated with two adults of the same gender entering into a lifelong commitment. And while the Vatican is mired in an (yet another) series of international child sexual abuse scandals, they've wasted no time in blaming the "gay agenda" for manufacturing the scandal and that "homosexuals" within the priestly ranks are responsible for crimes against children.

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-23T10:18:21-06:00
ID
158811
Comment

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/religion/july-dec05/gays_11-29.html Under the new instruction, the Church said it cannot admit to the seminary and to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called "gay culture." U.S. Roman Catholic Church accused of scapegoating homosexuals trying to enter priesthood Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1282913/U-S-Roman-Catholic-Church-accused-scapegoating-homosexuals-trying-enter-priesthood.html#ixzz0uWVYI8DQ http://www.scripturecatholic.com/homosexuality.html "Lev. 20:13 - God says that if a man lies with another man, he shall be put to death. From the very beginning, God has revealed that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, unhealthy, and mortally sinful." "Deut. 22:5 - cross-dressing is also considered an abomination before God." "Lev. 18:22, 29 - God commands a man never to lie with a male as with a female, or he will be cut off. This refers to supernatural death which is eternal separation from God. While the Old Covenant laws have been abrogated by the New Covenant, the Church has adopted their moral principles. Thus, the moral prohibitions on homosexuality still apply in the New Covenant, as Peter, Paul and Jude demonstrate." "Rom. 1:26 - also, when a woman lies with another women (lesbianism), this is unnatural and a perversion. God wants His children to be pure and holy as He is holy. Paul condemns all homosexual acts, whether committed by men or women." "Rom. 1:27 – Paul calls the practice of homosexuality shameless, unnatural and a perversity. It is contrary to the natural law, as it eviscerates the life-giving aspect of human sexuality and reduces it to a selfish, pleasure-seeking end." "1 Cor 6:9: Paul teaches that sodomites will not enter into the kingdom of God. The Greek word for “sodomite” (arsenokoites) literally means “male copulation” or “male sexual relations.” The Greek “arsen” means “male” and “koites” means “coitus” or “sexual relations.” Paul uses the same word in 1 Tim 1:10."

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-23T10:23:27-06:00
ID
158812
Comment

If you need more, I could e-mail you at least 100 pages of these. Hell, I could just mail you books, the Bible for one. http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE66K5P920100721 "We shouldn't be naive: this isn't just a political struggle, it's a strategy to destroy God's plan," Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the head of the Church in Argentina, said in a letter before the vote, urging lawmakers to reject the bill. http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/catholicamerica/2008/10/catholicism_and_same_sex_marri.html "The Catholic bishops of Connecticut support a State Constitutional Convention to draft provisions for blocking gay marriages. Last week, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry." http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/top/features/documents/03702314.asp "THE MOST POWERFUL local opponent fighting against the civil-marriage rights of same-sex couples is the Catholic Church. For months, the state’s four bishops — led by Boston archbishop Seán O’Malley — have mounted an unprecedented campaign to sway the votes of Catholic politicians on Beacon Hill."

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-23T10:28:27-06:00
ID
158820
Comment

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!!

Author
Queen601
Date
2010-07-23T13:31:03-06:00
ID
158843
Comment

I'm waiting on your retort Ricky the Kid. Where you at son?

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-07-26T19:51:43-06:00

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