The Southern Poverty Law Center threatened legal action after Dawson was told by the school that the student handbook bars students from taking dates of the same sex to the prom. One day later, the school modified the handbook.
“We congratulate school leaders for standing up for all students and allowing Stacy to take part in the time-honoured tradition of prom,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “School leaders have a duty to all students and should be striving to create an environment that is inclusive and welcoming, not one that marginalises young people and says who they are is wrong. In this case, they did the right thing.”
A.J. Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO, also commends the decision of the school leaders, “We are glad to see that the high school has come to its senses and made the right decision. Prom should be an enjoyable inclusive event. All students need to feel safe and secure in school.”
According to media reports, Dawson called prom “an important milestone in high school, and I would be devastated if I’m not allowed to attend prom with my boyfriend. He added, “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.”
The case of anti-LGBT discrimination comes on the heels of another story in Indiana last week, where a small group of students and community members worked to ban gay and lesbian students from attending the Sullivan High School prom. In that case, school officials did the right thing, saying the prom is open to all students and nobody will be excluded, including gay and lesbian students.
Discrimination against LGBT students is widespread and can have devastating consequences. Last year, HRC released a groundbreaking youth survey that illustrates the obstacles LGBT youth face. The survey found that 42 percent of LGBT youth say they live in a community that isn’t accepting of LGBT people. Nearly one-third of youth say their biggest problems in life include not being accepted by their family, bullying at school and a fear of living openly. And 92 percent of youth say they hear negative messages from others about being LGBT.