Openly Gay Student's Senior Photo Rejected From Yearbook

BlogHer Original Post

The Jackson Free Press  and Fox 5 out of Atlanta are reporting that a gay teenager in Wesson, Mississippi, was cut from her high school yearbook when she posed for her senior photo in a tuxedo instead of a dress.

Fox reports:

Ceara chose to wear a tuxedo rather than a dress in the high school senior portrait, but in October 2009 the school rejected the photo. Sturgis and her mother then got the Mississippi ACLU to protest the school officials' decision and ask that the photo be included. But the Copiah County School District refused to accept the photo.

Rear view of young female students walking in a hallway

Julie Bolcer from the Advocate.com says that Veronica Rodriguez, Ceara Sturgis' mother, was appalled when she saw the yearbook and noticed that the school system refused to acknowledge Ceara.

Sturgis, a popular and academically accomplished student, has attended the school for 12 years.

The Copiah County School District maintains that its decision not to run the photo is based on federal legal precedent. The ACLU would not say whether it planned any legal action based on the school’s decision not to run the photo.

Ceara Sturgis is an openly gay teenager at Wesson Attendance Center. She has been a student there for 12 years, and she is well liked enough to have been nominated for prom queen.

Copiah County Schools maintain that they have legal justification not to run the photo. The ACLU disagrees and has given the school until October 23rd to respond before the group pursues legal action, and there is a precedent. From the Jackson Free Press:

ACLU legal director Kristy L. Bennett said the district referred to a 2004 settlement of Youngblood v. School Board of Hillsborough County, Fla. In that case, former Robinson High School principal Kevin McCarthy refused to alter the school's senior photo dress code that required female students to wear a scoop-necked drape, which ruled out the possibility of student Nicole Youngblood posing in a suit.

Well, I went to high school in Hillsborough County, and while I didn't go to Robinson, and I graduated long before 2004, I can say without a doubt that even back in the (ahem) day, I could not have possibly cared less what one of my classmates wore in their senior picture. Here we are talking about a student in 2010 who is open with her sexuality. From what I have read, I have gathered that Ceara has an amazingly supportive mother and accepting classmates.

Ceara is 17 years old and every bit as much a member of her class as any other student, and she was wearing the same outfit as approximately half of the other kids in her class. If the school district had a problem with her photograph, they really should have notified the family ahead of time.

In a statement Ceara Sturgis said that she feels "like I'm not important, that the school is dismissing who I am as a gay student and that they don't even care about me. All I want is to be able to be me, and to be included in the yearbook."

Miss Sturgis is the goalie on the school's soccer team, a trumpet player and an honor student. If she isn't a part of her school, I can't imagine who is.

BlogHer Contributing Editor, Sarah Sports and Fitness can also be found at Sarah and the Goon Squad, Draft Day Suit and MamaPop

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