Know Your Rights

What to Do If You Run Into Problems at Dances

Your school must respect your participation and provide for your safety.

Same-sex couples should not have to seek extra permission to attend dances. But if you're concerned you'll encounter a problem, consider telling your school principal in advance that you’re bringing a same-sex date and ask for a short note confirming that they are allowed to attend.

Ask a supportive adult for help. Someone like a parent or teacher can talk to your principal or other administrator and remind them that the law requires the school to take appropriate security measures to provide for your safety at any event.

If your school tells you that you can’t take a same-sex date to a dance, contact (or ask your parents or guardians to contact) your school principal and ask for the reasons of the denial in writing.

If your school tells you that you need your parents’ permission to attend, ask the principal in writing (or ask your parent or guardian to do so) whether parental permission is required of all students. There is no legal justification for demanding permission because of sex or sexual orientation.

If you are barred from entering the dance or from dancing together, ask to speak with the person in charge of the event. Let them know that LGBTQ students have the same rights as all other students, including to attend and dance together.

Know that barring a student from a dance on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity can make the school vulnerable to legal liability. For more information about legal victories won on behalf of LGBTQ youth who wanted to attend prom with a same-sex date, click here. Adults or students can also take along a copy of this article for backup. If this doesn’t work, report the incident to the principal in writing.

If you are harassed at the prom or dance, report it to officials, security personnel or other monitors/chaperones at the dance. Ask friends and allies to get on the dance floor with you to break the ice. After the event, report any incidents of harassment to the principal in writing.

If you are disciplined for a public display of affection, let the school representative know that such limits must apply to everyone, not just LGBTQ students. Expressions of sexual orientation and gender identity generally fall under First Amendment protections.

For more information, contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk at 866-542-8336 or www.lambdalegal.org/help.

If you are an educator who wants more information about ensuring student safety, click here.