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Monday, November 16, 2009

Alabama school reverses decision about lesbian prom date

The Associated Press announced that the northwest Alabama school district has changed their mind and won't stop a high school student from bringing her girlfriend to prom after the principal initially had said the lesbian couple would not be allowed to attend.

Cynthia Stewart, 17, told the TimesDaily, a Florence newspaper, that she asked to bring her girlfriend to the prom at Tharptown High School in Franklin County Alabama, but was refused permission by the principal.

"All I want is to be able to be myself and go to my prom with the person I love, just like any other student wants to do," said Stewart, who is on the committee planning the dance scheduled for March.

Stewart sought help from the American Civil Liberties Union, and school officials on Tuesday said they had reconsidered.

The school reviews all potential prom dates who, like Stewart's girlfriend, live outside the regular attendance district. Assistant Superintendent Donald Borden said that process hasn't begun but would include the young woman.

"If her date passes, she comes," he said. The checks screen out troublemakers and students with documented behavioral problems.

ACLU attorney Hank Sherrod III said Stewart's girlfriend "is a teenager with no problems that would keep her from being able to attend the prom."

"We're not asking for special treatment. We just want to be treated like everyone else," he said.

Stewart said she hoped that raising the issue would change the way some people think about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. She said there are other students at Tharptown High School who are gay.

"I'm not just doing this for me; I'm trying to help other kids in my situation," Stewart said.
Kathy Baker, who is Stewart's aunt and legal guardian, appealed the principal's initial refusal to the school board last month. Sherrod said allowing Stewart to bring the date of her choice to the prom was the correct decision.

"This issue is going to be confronting a lot of conservative school districts more and more as this generation accepts people for who they are," Sherrod said. "There is case law that makes right and wrong very clear."

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