School Says No to Yearbook Photo of Gay Girl in Tux
Sturgis' mom, Vanessa Rodriguez, told the Clarion-Ledger that she was told her daughter's picture will not appear in the yearbook because of her choice of clothing. Considering the yearbook is for the kids -- rather than the school -- Rodriguez said she can't understand why her daughter can't wear what she wants.When TV station WLOX tried to find out, a reporter was told by a school board spokeswoman to "dig deeper." When they did, all the could come up with? Sturgis is openly gay.
Calls by ParentDish to district administrators likewise came up empty -- neither Ronald Greer, the principal at Wesson Attendance Center where Sturgis is a senior, nor Rickey Clopton, the superintendent of the Copiah County School District, were available to come to the phone. Instead ParentDish was directed to a school statement also released to the local paper, the Copiah County Courier:
"We have had our legal counsel research the validity of the position of the School District on this matter. We are informed by counsel that this exact issue has been litigated in Federal Court. The decisions of the Federal Courts completely support the policy of the District in this regard.It is the desire of the Copiah County School District to inform, first, the patrons of the District, and second, all other interested parties, that its position is not arbitrary, capricious or unlawful, but is based upon sound educational policy and legal precedent."
The statement does not elaborate on which cases the district believes will back its case, but Rodriguez and Sturgis have gotten backing from the Mississippi ACLU in their fight to get the photo inserted into the yearbook. Their tack has been to challenge the district decision based on the first amendment rights of Ceara Sturgis.
As the landmark federal case Tinker v. Des Moines asserted in 1969, "A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments."
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