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The Choices We Make in High School April 12, 2010

Posted by Bill in Current Events, Family Values, Gay Lesbian Issues, Schools, Uncategorized.
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There has been a great deal of wholly justified outrage at the “separate but equal” prom the parents and students of Itawamba Agricultural High School in Itawamba, Mississippi, held to avoid having to attend the prom with lesbian teenager Constance McMillen. Facebook pages and websites have sprung up to voice support for Constance and to castigate the citizens, students, administration, teachers and schoolboard of Itawamba. When some mean spirited students posted pictures of the private prom on a Facebook page called “Constance, Quit Yer Cryin’ “, McMillen’s supporters overtook the page, flooding it with messages of support for Constance and setting up their own page to support her.

To recap, when  Constance McMillen sought to attend her senior prom, wearing a tux and accompanied by her girlfriend, the high school  canceled the prom.  The judge who issued a preliminary ruling that McMillen’s rights had been violated failed to require the school to reinstate the prom because he was told that parents were already planning to hold a private prom. What the parents neglected to tell the judge, however, was that they actually were planning two proms– one for Constance and once for everybody else in the senior class– with the exception of some students with learning disabilities who evidently did not meet the standards to attend the secret prom.

The rhetoric has reached such a high pitch that Constance purportedly issued a message asking people to stop emailing students from the high school and begging everybody just to chill. She added that she had a lot of friends at the high school who supported her and who did not deserve the hatred being showered upon them. My first thought upon hearing this was that Constance is showing a whole lot more maturity and sensitivity than most of the people involved in this sorry saga. My second thought was to wonder about the choice her friends made, because at some point they CHOSE to exclude someone who was supposedly their friend from one of the most important events in a high schooler’s life. They CHOSE not to go to the prom to which Constance was invited. They CHOSE to go to the secret prom.

What thought processes were going through their minds, I wonder? Everyone wants their prom to be very, very special. The students who were faced with the decision of which prom to attend probably had a lot of things going through their minds– whether to go to a prom with almost all the other members of their class or to go to one attended by only 7 people? Whether to face the heckling and hatred of their other classmates if they went to the fake prom or whether to follow the crowd and deliberately hurt Constance and the learning disabled students who attended the fake prom?

Knowing how strong peer pressure is, I don’t suppose I can get too angry at Constance’s friends who went to the secret prom rather than standing by their friend against such blatant persecution. Constance doesn’t have a choice about being who she is, however, but the students with whom she goes to high school had a choice about which prom to attend. I can’t help but wonder, twenty years from now when Constance’s friends are looking at their high school prom pictures, will they wish they had made a different choice?