Yearbook

Lesbian Who Wants To Wear A Tuxedo In Yearbook: Mississippi School District Still Says No

Veronica Rodriguez, right, the mother of 17-year-old lesbian Ceara Sturgis, complains to reporters that her daughter deserves to have her senior portrait, included in the Wesson Attendance Center phone book even though she wears a tuxedo instead drapes over the shoulders traditionally worn by women while Kristy Bennett, an ACLU lawyer in Mississippi, takes notes Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009, in Jackson, Mississippi.

JACKSON, Mississippi – A Mississippi school principal said today that earlier federal court rulings supported a principal’s decision not to include a photo of a lesbian teen in a high school yearbook.

lesbian2.jpgVeronica Rodriguez, mother of 17-year-old lesbian Ceara Sturgis, complains to reporters that her daughter deserves to have her senior portrait, included in the Wesson Attendance Center directory even though she wears a tuxedo instead of more – the shoulder curtains traditionally worn by women.

The Copiah County School District has been threatened with legal action over the school’s refusal to include the photo of Ceara Sturgis, 17, wearing a tuxedo. Students at the Wesson Attendance Center traditionally wear curtains in yearbook photos, while men wear tuxedos.

District Superintendent Rickey Clopton said today that federal court rulings support the policy of the K-12 school located in the town of Wesson, about 50 miles south of Jackson.

“We are advised by counsel that this exact matter has been taken to federal court. The federal court rulings fully support district policy in this regard,” Clopton said in a statement to the Copiah County Courier, a newspaper weekly. .

Clopton would not return Friday calls from the Associated Press.

Sturgis is a gay college student who dresses in male clothes. She submitted a senior photo for the directory wearing a tuxedo. Sturgis said wearing a sheet, like other older women, was a misrepresentation of how she identified herself.

“What I wear shouldn’t matter. It’s up to me to decide what I look like in my photo, not on school,” Sturgis said in a statement to the AP.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi sent a demand letter to the district, notifying officials that the teenager’s First Amendment rights have been violated. Kristy L. Bennett, the organization’s legal director, said litigation against the district could follow if Sturgis’ photograph is not accepted.

There is no clear policy on the issue in the student manual, according to the ACLU.

In his statement posted on the local newspaper’s website, Clopton did not cite any federal cases supporting the policy. He said the district’s position “is not arbitrary, capricious or illegal, but is based on sound educational policy and legal precedent.”

The ACLU did not immediately comment on Clopton’s statement on Friday.

The owner of the studio where the photo was taken, Jackson’s Tom Bruckner, said he would not release the image to the media, although the image has been used by several news outlets.

Sturgis’ mother Veronica Rodriguez said this week that even though the school would accept the photo, she was unsure if that would solve the problem.

“They really hurt her,” Rodriguez said.

(Associate Press Editor Shelia Byrd is the author of this report.)


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