Missouri School District Revises Anti-Gay Prom Policy After Student Protests

Earlier this week, Stacy Dawson asked administrators at the Scott County Central School District if he could bring his boyfriend to prom. The school district shot him down, citing a line in the student handbook that can be interpreted to bar same-sex couples from attending the prom:

The handbook states, “High school students will be permitted to invite one guest, girls invite boys and boys invite girls.”

“Prom is an important milestone in high school, and I would be devastated if I’m not allowed to attend prom with my boyfriend,” Dawson said. “It isn’t fair that a school can randomly disregard students’ rights because it doesn’t agree with who you want to take to prom.”

Stacy Dawson

The Southern Poverty Law Center immediately threatened legal action against the school district, calling the handbook policy unconstitutional and a violation of Dawson’s right to free expression:

“Denying Stacy’s right to bring his boyfriend to prom is blatantly discriminatory and in violation of his constitutional rights,” said Alesdair Ittelson, staff attorney for the SPLC. “This unlawful policy reminds us that anti-gay sentiment still serves as a platform for schools to deny the rights of same-sex couples. We call upon the school district to end this unconstitutional policy and recognize Stacy’s rights without further delay.”

Luckily, no lawsuit was necessary. School district superintendent Alvin McFerren told the Associated Press that the handbook policy, adopted 10 or 15 years ago “for an innocent reason,” would be revised:

McFerren said the line was simply aimed at trying to stop students from cheating on the entry cost of prom and other dances — by going as a “couple,” they were saving a few bucks since the couples’ rate was less expensive than two individual fees.

“When I found out the real, true, innocent reason, we wanted to get that kind of thing corrected,” McFerren said.

The news comes the same week a group of students and faculty in Indiana made headlines fighting for a separate prom that would ban gay students. The SPLC reportedly hasn’t spoken with the Missouri school district superintendent yet to confirm the good news, but all are cautiously optimistic.

“If it is indeed true that the policy has been permanently changed, it represents a big step forward for LGBT students in a part of the country that frequently lacks community support for students like Stacy,” Ittelson said. “We applaud Stacy’s bravery in standing up for his rights.”

So do we — hopefully, this will inspire other gay or lesbian students to stand up in the face of this sort of discrimination, too, intentional or not.

(Thanks to @enterprise1705 for the link!)

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.


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