High school forbids same-sex prom dates

01:14 PM CDT on Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Associated Press

LAGO VISTA, Texas -- A civil liberties group is asking the principal of a Central Texas high school to reconsider a policy prohibiting students attending the prom from buying tickets for same-sex guests.

“It’s supposed to be a special night that you’re supposed to share with people you like to be around,” said Sherrell Ingram, a 16-year-old junior. “If they’re setting limits on who you can and can’t bring just because of their sex, it’s not going to be great anymore. It’s not going to be special.”

Ingram, who helped organize the prom, noticed a sign detailing the rule against same-sex prom ticket purchases last month, just as her mother was about to buy tickets for her and a best friend. Ingram and the girl have been best friends since the sixth grade. Ingram said she is not a lesbian but thinks the policy discriminates against her gay friends.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, Mom, read this,”’ Ingram said in Wednesday editions of the Austin American-Statesman. “Isn’t that illegal?” she recalled asking her mother, who works in the school cafeteria.

Now, a civil liberties group has asked Principal Donna Larkin to reconsider the policy and has threatened to sue if Larkin doesn’t repeal it by Friday. The prom is May 15.

“I think a policy like this is something so exceptional—in most schools in this country, a student who is a junior or senior gets to choose who to bring to the prom,” said Judith Schaeffer, deputy legal director of People for the American Way. “In either case, the proms go on just fine. The sky doesn’t come crashing down. The idea that a lawyer had to get involved here is really very sad.”

Barbara Qualls, Lago Vista’s school superintendent, declined to comment to the Austin-American Statesman, citing the threat of litigation. She did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Ingram’s mother, Ginger White, called Schaeffer, who sent Larkin a four-page letter explaining why People for the American Way believes the policy is discriminatory. The rule violates a federal law banning any federally funded education program from discriminating because of a person’s sex, according to the letter, dated Monday.

The letter also says the policy violates the constitutional rights of the school’s gay and lesbian students.

Lago Vista, a town of about 5,000 people, is northwest of Austin.