School Must Pay Constance $81K

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com October 26 2010 12:55 PM ET

The Mississippi school district that canceled a high school prom because a lesbian student wanted to bring her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo was ordered to pay $81,000 in legal fees to the student, Constance McMillen.

U.S. district judge Glen H. Davidson signed the order Monday, mandating the Itawamba County School District to pay the fees to McMillen.

According to court documents, the school district must pay McMillen $67,265 in attorney's fees and $14,400 for other legal expenses.

McMillen, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the Itawamba County School District in March after it initially rejected her request to bring her girlfriend as a date. A judge ruled that officials could not block McMillen and her date from attending the prom, so the April 2 event was canceled altogether, but later reinstated.

However, parents organized a separate, private gathering. McMillen, who was not invited, instead went to a "sham" prom, put up by the school on the same night, while nearly all of her classmates partied at the other event, she told The Advocate.

In July, the school district settled with McMillen for $35,000. It also agreed to enforce a nondiscrimination policy to protect students, including those that are gay. Despite the settlement, the school district's spokespeople and attorneys have said that McMillen's constitutional rights were not breached when the the prom was canceled to avoid allowing her to bring her girlfriend.

McMillen is currently a freshman at a community college in Memphis, Tenn.