Texas high school threatened with suit for barring same-sex prom dates
May 06 2004 12:00 AM ET
A civil liberties advocacy group is asking the principal of Lago Vista High School, located in central Texas, to reconsider a policy prohibiting prom attendees from buying tickets for same-sex guests. "It's supposed to be a special night that you're supposed to share with people you like to be around," said Sherrell Ingram, a 16-year-old junior. "If they're setting limits on who you can and can't bring just because of their sex, it's not going to be great anymore. It's not going to be special."
Ingram, who helped organize the prom, noticed a sign detailing the rule against same-sex prom guests last month, just as her mother was about to buy tickets for her and a friend. Ingram and the girl have been best friends since the sixth grade. Ingram said she is not a lesbian but thinks the policy discriminates against her gay friends as well. "I was like, 'Whoa, Mom, read this,"' Ingram told the Austin American-Statesman. "Isn't that illegal?" she recalled asking her mother, who works in the school cafeteria.
Now People for the American Way, a civil liberties group, has asked Principal Donna Larkin to reconsider the policy and has threatened to sue if Larkin doesn't repeal it by Friday. The prom is May 15.
"I think a policy like this is something so exceptional; in most schools in this country a student who is a junior or senior gets to choose who to bring to the prom," said Judith Schaeffer, deputy legal director of PFAW. "In either case, the proms go on just fine. The sky doesn't come crashing down. The idea that a lawyer had to get involved here is really very sad."
Barbara Qualls, Lago Vista's school superintendent, declined to comment to the American-Statesman, citing the threat of litigation. Ingram's mother, Ginger White, called Schaeffer, who sent Larkin a four-page letter explaining why PFAW believes the policy is discriminatory. The rule violates a federal law banning any federally funded education program from discriminating because of a person's sex, according to the letter, dated Monday. The letter also says the policy violates the constitutional rights of the school's gay and lesbian students. Lago Vista, a town of about 5,000 people, is northwest of Austin.