Barring same-sex couples from dances is likely to be against the law.
- As long ago as 1980, a federal court upheld high-school senior Aaron Fricke’s right to bring his male date to the prom.
- The court also ruled that how other students might react to Aaron and his date did not justify banning them.
Supreme Court and federal court cases since then affirm that any policy or action that blocks same-sex couples from proms and dances—and any policy created to make such discrimination possible—violates students’ rights to free expression and association, which are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
A federal court upheld this fundamental right to equal treatment in 2008. The court ordered Scottsboro High School in Alabama to let two female students attend the prom together and defeated the school board’s efforts to block them.
Despite common fears, the presence of same-sex couples at school events has rarely proven to be disruptive. Nonetheless, it is important to remain vigilant and attentive to any safety needs. Prejudice and homophobia are realities. Adults have a professional responsibility to protect students from anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination. When needed, additional security should protect the safety of all students and not single out or focus on LGBTQ students.
Adult allies, like parents or teachers, can talk to their children’s or students’ principal or other administrator, reminding them that the law requires the school to take appropriate security measures to ensure the safety of all students at any event.
Additional ways adult allies can help protect young people at proms and dances include:
• Informing administrations and school boards about students’ constitutional rights, and encouraging these authorities to protect them.
• Encouraging school boards and administrations to pass antidiscrimination policies that explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity.
• Talking to students before prom to address questions and concerns.
Lambda Legal can provide resources that describe students’ rights, and can communicate directly with school policymakers and decision makers if need be. Contact Lambda Legal at 866-542-8336 or visit www.lambdalegal.org/help.