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Mississippi School Cancels Prom Rather Than Let Lesbian Teens Attend

Last week, headlines were made after a school in Mississippi cancelled its senior prom rather than let a lesbian couple attend. The school, Itawamba Agricultural High School, released a statement that explained prom was off, "due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events."

And while the events leading up to this particular incident were indeed recent, barring gay and lesbian teens from taking same sex dates to prom, isn't.

This issue first entered the courts back in 1980, when a school in Rhode Island told a gay teen named Aaron Fricke that he could not bring a male date to prom and outlined the reasons in a letter sent to Aaron by the principal.

Dear Aaron: This is to confirm our conversation of Friday, April 11, 1980, during which I denied your request to attend the Senior Reception on May 30, 1980 at the Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Massachusetts, accompanied by a male escort. I am denying your request for the following reasons: 1. The real and present threat of physical harm to you, your male escort and to others; 2. The adverse effect among your classmates, other students, the School and the Town of Cumberland, which is certain to follow approval of such a request for overt homosexual interaction (male or female) at a class function; 3. Since the dance is being held out of state and this is a function of the students of Cumberland High School, the School Department is powerless to insure protection in Sutton, Massachusetts. That protection would be required of property as well as persons and would expose all concerned to liability for harm which might occur; Sincerely, Richard B. Lynch Principal

Aaron ultimately sued and won the right to attend his prom with a male date. As the judge deciding the case wrote, "I find that principal Lynch's reason for prohibiting Aaron's attendance at the reception the potential for disruption is not sufficiently compelling to justify a classification that would abridge first amendment rights."

That decision guaranteed the right of any American student to bring a same sex date to a school sponsored dance.

I'd like to think that educators in Mississippi, the state with the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, would have more important things to wory about than who was taking who to prom. Then again, I'd also like to think that schools would feel compelled to obey the law rather than impose a homophobic vision of teen life.