That’s McMillen 2 – Itawamba Ag HS 0

JISHOU, HUNAN — The lesbian teenager denied a decent high school prom has won her discrimination case against Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi. The school agreed to revise its prom policy to be non-discriminatory and to pay Constance McMillen $35,000 in damages and her legal fees. McMillen last fall had asked her school if she could come to her prom wearing a tuxedo and bring her girl friend as her date. The school said no. So, she and her parents approached the American Civil Liberties Union, which agreed to represent her in a civil action against the school. So, the school canceled prom altogether. A judge subsequently required the school to hold a prom open to everyone, including McMillen and her date. Then, the school sponsored a fake prom, while a “secret” prom was held elsewhere for the rest of McMillen’s graduating class. McMillen was harassed so much at school that she transferred to a school in Jackson just to graduate with some dignity. Itawamba becomes the first high school in Mississippi to have a policy barring discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Talk about irony.

Graduation speeches, prayers and the First Amendment 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — I may seem to pay too much attention to religion in public high school graduation ceremonies, but for me it’s fascinating to see how the courts resolve two apparently conflicting clauses in the First Amendment. On the one hand, the Establishment Clause states the government can neither promote a particular religion nor prevent the free exercise of any religion. On the other hand, the Free Speech clause prevents the government from limiting or banning speech or any other kind of expression, no matter how obnoxious it may be. So, what happens when someone (a public school student, say) wants to talk about God or religion during a graduation ceremony? A public school is, after all, an institution of the government, so one might assume that student would have to rewrite the speech to omit the God stuff. This is exactly what school officials in a Nevada town believed in 2007 when they told Brittany McComb she had to take her witnessing for Jesus out of her valedictory. At first, McComb agreed, but when it came time to deliver her speech, she still referred to Jesus, etc., and school officials literally pulled the plug on her microphone. Dumb. ...

Stupid high schools, chapter XXXIV 4

JISHOU, HUNAN — It’s time to blog about stupid high schools again. The fruit is hanging low this season, so let’s take a look at Itawamba Agricultural High School (IAHS) in the fine “Christian” community of Fulton, Mississippi. This tiny high school in a tiny town (populated by people with tiny minds) has made international news because it told a lesbian student, Constance McMillen, that she (a) could not bring her female date and (b) could not wear a tux to the senior prom on April 2. After she asked to bring her girlfriend, IAHS school officials told McMillen there were Rules for Senior Prom, which specifically forbid same-sex couples and stipulate that only boys can wear tuxedos. (For girls to wear tuxes apparently would bring on a plague of frogs, or some other Biblical catastrophe.) McMillen and her parents approached the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a letter of demand in February to the principal of IAHS informing her that the rules violated McMillen’s constitutional rights. So, the school did the honorable chickenshit thing — it withdrew its sponsorship and canceled the prom. Of course, who became the scapegoat? Not the school, which had reneged on its traditional ...

Memphis schools defend anti-gay principal

She did nothing wrong when she outed a gay couple to the school community and their parents, according to the Memphis City schools. It was all necessary to maintain school order. Ja, mein commandant! The details are in the local newspaper story here. The district says it is preparing a more formal legal response to a letter the American Civil Liberties Union sent them last week. Meanwhile, some parents want the board to take some disciplinary action against the principal, Daphne Beasley. A small but vocal contingent of parents confronted the board at its meeting Monday evening. “I’m disgusted,” Memphis parent Natasha Burnett told Eyewitness News Everywhere. “I’m disgusted by it.” … “Firing her may be too harsh,” says Burnett, “but something needs to be done about that. No faculty member should be able to out a student like that.” The students in question had just started a relationship that they were trying to keep quiet. The parents of the boys were not aware they were gay, until Beasley called the parents, outraged that they had gay children at her school. Her actions were supposedly to quell “public displays of affection” on campus, but according to one school official students ...

When religion and teaching don’t mix 1

Central Ohio is the latest hotspot for lunatic religious types imposing their beliefs on hapless students. John Freshwater, an 8th grade science teacher in Mount Vernon, has allegedly used an electrostatic device to leave Christian crosses on students’ skin, passed out anti-evolution brochures, and taught his science classes about the meaning of Good Friday and Easter. When administrators told him he had to remove a Bible from his desktop, Freshwater refused, inspiring a student rally on his behalf and an opposing response from the American Civil Liberties Union. Mount Vernon school officials have arranged for an independent investigation into the allegations against Freshwater, according to the local newspaper. He will continue to teach, but with an administrator present to monitor his behavior. If the issue were just the presence of a single Bible on his desk, Freshwater would not be in such hot water. As it is, he has several Bibles in his classroom, which he loans out to students. Further, it is clear he uses his role as teacher to impose his religious beliefs on his students. Even if the majority of students share those beliefs, as a public school teacher (not to mention a science teacher) he is ...
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