Texas High School changes policy on same-sex prom dates

Associated Press

May 8, 2004

LAGO VISTA -- Amid threats of a lawsuit, a Central Texas school district has suspended a policy prohibiting students from buying prom tickets for same-sex guests.

The Lago Vista district "will suspend the prom attendance guidelines for the remainder of the year until the district has an opportunity to further evaluate its role in the sponsorship of school social activities," district lawyer Marquette Maresh wrote in a letter quoted in Saturday editions of the Austin American-Statesman.

The letter was sent to lawyer Jeremy Wright, who represents the People for the American Way Foundation. The Washington-based civil rights group, which claims 600,000 members, had threatened to sue the district if the policy set by Lago Vista High School Principal Donna Larkin was not rescinded by Friday.

Wright's group questioned the policy after Sherrell Ingram, a 16-year-old junior, 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 thought the policy discriminated against her gay friends.

"I think it's good," Ingram said of the policy suspension, "but we want the school to permanently not ever have a rule like this."

In a four-page letter dated Monday, People for the American Way claimed the policy violates a federal law banning any federally funded education program from discriminating because of a person's sex. The letter also said the policy infringes on the constitutional rights of the school's gay and lesbian students.

District Superintendent Barbara Qualls declined to comment on the policy suspension.

Wright said he was pleased.

"Now Sherrell can concentrate on other pressing issues, like finding a pair of shoes to match her prom dress," he said.

The prom is May 15.

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