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Lesbian gets $35,000 over canceled prom

Associated Press / July 21, 2010

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JACKSON, Miss. — A rural school district that canceled its prom rather than allow a lesbian student to attend with her girlfriend has agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit the ACLU filed on her behalf.

The district also agreed to follow a nondiscrimination policy as part of the settlement, though it argues that such a policy was already in place.

Constance McMillen, 18, said the victory came at the price of her being shunned in her small hometown of Fulton.

“I knew it was a good cause, but sometimes it really got to me. I knew it would change things for others in the future, and I kept going and I kept pushing,’’ McMillen said yesterday.

The flap started in March when McMillen challenged the Itawamba County School District’s rules banning prom dates of the same gender and allowing only male students to wear tuxedos. The district responded by canceling its prom, prompting the ACLU to file suit, claiming the teen’s rights had been violated.

US District Judge Glen H. Davidson refused to make school officials hold the prom, but he said in a March 23 ruling that the district violated her rights.

McMillen’s lawyers filed notice Monday in US District Court of their intent to accept a judgment offer from the school district that will pay $35,000, plus attorney’s fees. As part of the agreement, the district also said it would follow a policy not to discriminate based on sexual orientation in any educational or extracurricular activities or allow harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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