Prom: The Rights of LGBTQ Students
The school has reportedly made a policy to prevent students from bringing a date of the same sex to prom or may require students who do to sign a contract promising not to engage in any public display of affection at the dance
Prom raises many questions for any student:
“What should I wear?”
“How do I even rent a tux?”
“Do we go bowling?”
“Should we have spaghetti for dinner – what about the outfit it took me 4 months to pick?!”
For LGBTQ students, this time can be even more difficult to manage due to restrictions imposed on them by the school, or the pressure to go with a date that the school deems “appropriate.” It does not help if social pressure is validated by school restrictions treating LGBTQ students as ‘less than’ or an added liability.
Every student should have equal access to what is meant to be a celebration, regardless of their gender identity or sexuality.
One example was a high school in Maine that first told a student she could not bring a date of the same sex, she could not promenade with a person of the same sex and she had to wear a dress or gown and could not wear a tux or pants. The student negotiated with the school until the dress was the only issue. After GLAD wrote a demand letter outlining how the school was violating federal and state law, the school relented.
Another such example from a Massachusetts high school is that the school has reportedly made a policy to prevent students from bringing a date of the same sex to prom or may require students who do to sign a contract promising not to engage in any public display of affection at the dance. As GLAD Staff Attorney Allison Wright accurately pointed out in a letter to the school in question, “If this were school policy, it would violate constitutional and statutory rights of your students.”
Luckily, these school restrictions are actually TOTALLY NOT OKAY.
Plain and simple, these are things your school cannot impose on you at prom:
- Being unable to bring a person of the same sex to prom as your date
- Making you sign a contract to not engage in PDA or any other restriction that is not placed on non-LGBTQ students
- Refusing to let two people of the same sex promenade or be photographed together
- Restricting what you wear to prom by requiring that you dress ”in accordance with your gender/biological sex”
For more information on what your school district must do to meet legal obligations in regard to LGBTQ students, see this checklist designed for principals and school administrators.
If you find that your school is not following the information on the checklist, and that when this is brought to their attention they still refuse to do so, contact us at GLADAnswers.org so we can help to ensure your rights are enforced!
Every student should have equal access to what is meant to be a celebration, regardless of their gender identity or sexuality. That is a fact. That is the law.