...then Constance should be able to go with her girlie, too. But we don't live in a John Hughes movie, do we? So when heinous fuckery most foul injects bigotry into the public school system, what do we do? We write. Well, that's what I do.
The following is a letter I sent to Teresa McNeece, Superintendent of Education in Itawamba County, Mississippi.
to firstname.lastname@example.org date Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 1:48 PM subject Prom Cancellation mailed-by gmail.com
Dear Superintendent McNeece,
As I'm sure you're aware, the school board's decision to cancel the prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School has drawn national attention to you and your colleagues. Even here in Arizona, we have been trying to find a way to rectify the damage you've done.
Now, I'm sure that you and your fellow board members feel you made the decision that would best protect the values of your students. I am not going to write to you in hopes of bullying you into withdrawing your decision. That would be wrong and two wrongs do not a right make. What I am writing is a request. If you feel that the students of IAHS are better off having no prom at all rather than one or two students take same-sex partners, then I ask that you take steps to educate these same students about the nature of hate crimes. It wasn't too long ago that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched in your neighboring state of Alabama seeking equal treatment under the law. Because of pioneers such as Dr. King and Rosa Parks, the Browns, your students can enjoy an integrated education. No more are the days of separate-but-equal.
But now, the civil rights of lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender students are on the block. If we learned anything from the work in the 60's to oust ignorance masquerading as Jim Crow Laws, it should be that we are all equal. And yet, as is evidenced by your decision to deny Constance McMillen's request to take her girlfriend to prom (a right any male at your school is afforded), you have taught your students that King was wrong. That separate-but-equal still exists. Worse, you've condoned bigotry.And you've placed a target on McMillen's head.
While your public statement does not name her specifically as a reason for the cancellation, you--as an educator--must know that young adults have the capacity for immense cruelty. Your students are just as techno-savvy as you are. Since media outlets are plastering McMillen's name and picture all over the internet, it's not going to take long for the backlash to begin.
You claim you made your decision for the "safety of the students", but are you considering McMillen's safety? Are you going to protect her from hate crimes? Does she need to be martyred before you see that this was a huge mistake on the part of the school board? A school funeral/public mourning for a student killed for her sexuality would be far more distracting to the student body than a girl wearing a tuxedo.
Your decision is made, and as I said, I will not try to persuade you to change your collective minds. However, I am asking you to clean up your mess.
Bigotry in schools is not okay.
I suggest promoting awareness with gay-straight alliances, a public showing/study of the Laramie Project. If you are in need of further resources, I urge you to contact GLAAD. I'm sure they would be more than willing to help you educate your students with lessons that are not dripping with ignorance.
I have emailed the Gay Straight Alliance at the University of Mississippi to see if they or another LGBT-advocacy group would be willing to put together a prom for ALL students regardless of sexual preference, color, creed or affiliation. I urge you to do the same.
Thank you for your time.
Jamie Wyman Mesa, AZ 29 year old stay at home mother
Her email is above. Feel free to use it.