Texas School "Suspends" Policy Prohibiting Same-Sex Prom Dates

In response to a demand letter from attorneys representing Lago Vista High School student Sherrell Ingram, the Texas school has “suspended” its policy prohibiting same-sex prom dates in time for Sherrell to bring her best friend, another female, as her guest to the Lago Vista High School Prom.

In seeking relief from the school’s discriminatory policy, Sherrell and her mother, Ginger White, were represented by Elliot M. Mincberg and Judith E. Schaeffer of People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF), a national civil liberties group with more than 600,000 members and other supporters, and by Jeremy D. Wright and David Weiser of the Austin office of Kator, Parks & Weiser, P.L.L.C. In a letter sent to the school principal on May 3, PFAWF insisted that the school drop its discriminatory policy, or it would leave the family no choice but to file a lawsuit.

“Sherrell and her mom are an example for all of us. They saw an injustice and they took a stand. We couldn’t be more pleased for them, and for the students of Lago Vista High. This is a victory for all the students, and for common sense and tolerance,” said Schaeffer.

"I'm delighted with this result," said. Wright. "Now Sherrell can concentrate on other pressing issues, like finding a pair of shoes to match her prom dress."

In addition to the fact that the policy prohibited Sherrell, who is not gay, from taking her friend to the prom, Sherrell and her mother were concerned that the school’s policy unfairly and illegally discriminated against gay students. In the letter sent May 3 to school principal Donna Larkin, PFAWF explained that the school’s policy prohibiting students from bringing guests of the same sex to the prom constituted unlawful and unconstitutional sex discrimination. With the prom scheduled for May 15, the letter gave the school a deadline of today, May 7, to avoid legal action.

In a letter sent on Friday afternoon, May 7, counsel for the Lago Vista Independent School District stated that while the District does not agree with PFAWF’s analysis of the legal issues, the District will "suspend the prom attendance guidelines for the remainder of this year until the District has an opportunity to further evaluate its role in the sponsorship of school social activities."

“We’re pleased the school district has decided to not to enforce this policy, and to take the time to review what they are doing. We’re confident they will come to the conclusion that there’s no room for discrimination in public schools,” said Schaeffer.

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