The Terrebonne Parish School Board announced today that it will permit senior Monique Verdin to wear a tuxedo to Ellender Memorial High School's prom, which is to occur this Saturday, April 2, 2011. The announcement was made just a few hours after the ACLU sent a letter to the School Board and Ellender High's Principal Cory Butler demanding that the Board rescind an earlier decision requiring Verdin to wear a dress or gown as a condition to attending the prom. In the letter, the ACLU's LGBT Project and the ACLU of Louisiana had given the School Board a deadline of noon, Tuesday, March 29, 2011 to relent, or face the possibility of a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order and attorneys' fees.
"We're pleased that the School Board made the right decision, but it should have never come to this," said Christine P. Sun, senior counsel for the ACLU LGBT Project. "The law is clear that policies that require students to conform to gender stereotypes violate the constitutional guarantee to freedom of expression and freedom from sex discrimination."
"All students in Louisiana deserve the respect of equal treatment," said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "Monique Verdin wanted nothing more than that, and we're pleased that she has now received it for her prom."
In its letter, the ACLU noted that this time last year, a Mississippi federal court held that a school district's policy barring female students from wearing tuxedos violate the constitution. In that case, which was brought on behalf of student Constance McMillen, judgment was ultimately entered against Itawamba County School District, and the student was awarded over $116,000 in damages and attorneys' fees and expenses.
The letter further pointed out that Verdin had worn a tuxedo to Ellender's prom last year without incident. Verdin enjoys support among her fellow students, and is a varsity soccer and softball player for the school. She had already had made plans to share a van with her friends, and has paid $150 for her tuxedo this year.
A copy of the letter is available on the ACLU of Louisiana's website here.