ACLU Calls on School to Treat All Students Equally
Administrators’ Decision to Bar Same-Sex Couples from Prom is Unfair
LOUISVILLE, OH- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter yesterday to Steve Milano, principal of Louisville High School urging him to allow same-sex couples to attend prom on April 24, 2009. The ACLU received a complaint that a student was denied permission to bring a same-sex date to prom. The request was denied by Mr. Milano, two vice principals and the staff advisor for the prom because the student’s date was a person of the same sex.
ACLU of Ohio Staff Counsel Carrie Davis said, “This is a clear case of discrimination simply because these young people are gay. Many schools permit groups of students of the same sex to attend proms if their relationship is platonic, but Louisville officials have banned this student because he is in a same-sex relationship. Students should be free to bring whomever they choose as a guest to the prom.
The student attempted to discuss the situation with administrators from Louisville High School on several occasions. When the student’s request was denied, staff responded that it was because “it has always been a tradition that prom is an event made for couples of the opposite sex.
Courts have upheld students’ right to attend a school function with a person of their choosing in the past. In 1980, the ACLU represented Aaron Fricke of Rhode Island, who sued his principal because he prohibited him from attending prom with a same-sex date. The federal court agreed with the ACLU that the principal’s decision violated Fricke’s First Amendment rights of free expression and association. In addition, subsequent court cases, including those from the U.S. Supreme Court, indicate that the different treatment may violate the student’s rights under Equal Protection.
“’Tradition’ should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against someone. Rather than perpetuating divisive and mean-spirited policies, school officials should serve as examples of tolerance and inclusion and allow all students to attend prom with whomever they choose” concluded Davis.
Update: 04.23.09 Louisville High School has agreed to change their policy and allow students to bring the date of their choice to prom.
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.