Wyoming School That Had Police Remove Same-Sex Couple from Homecoming Dance Agrees to Let Same-Sex Couples Attend All Future Dances

Affiliate: ACLU of Wyoming
December 9, 2003 12:00 am

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ACLU of Wyoming
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BIG PINEY, WY — In response to a letter sent by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two girls who were marched out of a high school homecoming dance by police, the Sublette County School District has agreed that same-sex couples will no longer be excluded from school dances, the ACLU announced today.

“This is a terrific victory for the lesbian and gay students in our school,” said Amanda Blair, a senior at Big Piney High School in rural western Wyoming. “From now on, all students, not just straight students, will be able to enjoy school dances. It’s good to know that you can make a difference by standing up for what’s right.”

Blair, an honor student who participates in swimming, band, basketball, track, and choir, had listed a female friend as her homecoming date when she signed up for the September 12 dance. School officials told her that same-sex dates aren’t allowed at dances. Blair is heterosexual, but she and her friend decided to attend together in order to help lesbian and gay students in her district who may want to bring dates to school dances in the future. When Blair and her date arrived at the dance the next evening they were met by local police officers, who then escorted them off the premises without any explanation.

“We are very pleased that the school has decided to follow the law and do right by its lesbian and gay students,” said Linda Burt, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wyoming. “It’s unfortunate that Amanda and her date were so brutally excluded from participating in this year’s homecoming dance. But by coming forward and standing up for their rights, they have made the school a better place – especially for the lesbian and gay students who now know their school won’t exclude them from dances because of who they choose to date.”

The Sublette County School District’s assurances that students can bring same-sex dates comes in response to a letter the ACLU sent to district officials on behalf of Blair and her date. The letter, citing a 1980 federal case in Rhode Island, pointed out that students have a constitutional right to bring same-sex dates and demanded that the school allow them to do so. In the Rhode Island case, Fricke v. Lynch, a federal judge ruled that students who want to bring same-sex dates to school dances are not only protected under the free expression provisions of the First Amendment, but that schools must take steps to ensure their safety when they do bring same-sex dates to school dances. In the 23 years since Fricke was decided, students throughout the U.S. have brought same-sex dates to school dances without incident.

“Amanda should be commended for her efforts to make Big Piney High School a better place for lesbian and gay students,” said Ken Choe, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “Thanks to her bravery and determination, high school has become a little more bearable for the gay students, who no longer have to worry that police officers may be waiting for them should they choose to bring a date to a school dance.”

“We are especially glad that we were able to resolve this issue without litigation, thus sparing the students the pain and the school the expense,” Choe added.

The Fricke v. Lynch decision can be read at http://archive.aclu.org/court/fricke_decision.html.

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