With Spring comes prom season for our nation’s high schools and for some Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students, with prom season comes controversy as they try to bring a same gender date to the prom.
LGBT students, like other students, have the right to participate in this rite of passage and to bring dates of their choice. But even in 2009, some public high schools have a problem with this. What schools may not know is that who you decide to bring to the prom is constitutionally protected speech, guaranteed by the First Amendment in our constitution. In 1980, a federal court upheld the right of student, Aaron Fricke, to bring a same-sex date to his Rhode Island high school prom. It didn’t matter that some students and parents disapproved of Aaron’s choice because his decision was constitutionally protected freedom of expression.
The First Amendment not only protects your choice date, but it also protects what students wear to the prom. For instance, female students have the right to wear a tuxedo instead of a dress. The same rule applies if a male student decided to wear a formal dress. School districts can have dress codes, but if tuxedos and formal dress are a part of that dress code then any student should be allowed to wear them.
The ACLU has assisted countless LGBT students who experienced problems around prom time through the years and has even developed a website to provide assistance to students encountering difficulties because of their choice of date or dress: www.aclu.org/lgbtprom. If you’re experiencing any problems with your school administration over your date or dress at the prom contact me at email@example.com or 313-578-6812.
By Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project Staff Attorney