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Mississippi High School Refuses to Include Lesbian in Yearbook


You may recall a story I covered last October in which Ceara Sturgis, a lesbian senior at Wesson Attendance Center in Jackson, Mississippi, had her yearbook photo rejected by the school because she was wearing a tuxedo.

Sound familiar?

Anyway, the ACLU got involved, demanding that the school include Sturgis' photo. The superintendent said he planned to uphold the ban, citing a 2004 case involving dress codes and senior photos.

Ceara_sturgis So, the yearbooks came out this week. Not only did the school not include Sturgis' photo, they refused to mention her name at all, despite the fact that she had attended there for 12 years.

Said Sturgi's mom Veronica Rodriguez:  "They didn't even put her name in it. I was so furious when she told me about it. Ceara started crying and I told her to suck it up. Is that not pathetic for them to do that? Yet again, they have crapped on her and made her feel alienated. It's like she's nobody there, even though she's gone to school there for 12 years. They mentioned none of her accolades, even though she's one of the smartest students there with wonderful grades. They've got kids in the book that have been busted for drugs. There's even a picture of one of the seniors who dropped out of school.  I don't get it. Ceara is a top student. Why would they do this to her?"

Seems obvious. Because she's a lesbian.

And we're now well-versed in how some Mississippi schools treat lesbians.

Here's some info, via slog: "Time for an accountability moment: the website for the Wesson Attendance Center is here. Ronald Greer is WAC's principal and you can email him at rdgreer@copiah.k12.ms.us. Oscar Hawkins is WAC's high school principal and you can email him at ohawkins@copiah.k12.ms.us. The school's phone number is (601) 643-2221. The school's fax number is (601) 643-2458."

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  1. The email I sent:

    Your failure to mention Ceara Sturgis' name in the yearbook is beyond reprehensible! I was greatly disturbed by your failure to print her photo but to fail to mention her very existence in name is unconscionable!

    There is a reason that Mississippi lags behind the entire nation in education and that reason begins with your closed minds! You should be ashamed of yourself but I am sure that you are not given your bigoted nature.

    Your job is to educate and inspire the young minds of your school and in this endeavor you failed both Ceara and your jobs! You should be removed from your positions. As a father to two young children your actions disgust me! My heart goes out to Ceara and her mother for you failure to acknowledge their rights and feelings as human beings. SHAME ON YOU! You are not worthy to be called educators!!!

    Posted by: RB | Apr 27, 2010 7:37:38 PM

  2. I don't think this is a GLBT issue. Tuxedos are for MEN. She could have worn a nice WOMEN'S suit that fit her more masculine dress presence. Should they let a gay guy or ANY guy wear a dress, heels, and makeup? High Schools have the right to enforce dress standards; its not a slam against her for being gay.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Apr 27, 2010 7:42:38 PM

  3. *preference

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Apr 27, 2010 7:43:07 PM

  4. @ Brian in Texas,

    Brian, time to bone up on 'gender expression' and 'gender identity'.

    Oh, and I'm curious to know what you think the "T" in GLBT stands for?


    Posted by: Dickster | Apr 27, 2010 7:52:49 PM

  5. Imagine my COMPLETE and utter NON SURPRISE that you are in Texas, Brian. If it were merely a 'dress code infraction' as you purport, then they still would have listed her in the yearbook, and most certainly would have had at least one other picture of her. Last time I checked, girls are allowed to wear basically anything that boys are: pants, jackets, ties, etc. Dress codes are put in place in educational contexts to ensure student's safety and appropriateness, ie, no revealing tops for girls, pants that cover boy's buttocks entirely. The fact that you would go to the trouble to post your support of their obvious bigotry just proves one thing: you are a douchebag.

    Posted by: wtf | Apr 27, 2010 7:58:12 PM

  6. @BRIAN IN TEXAS Educate yourself ignorant..

    Posted by: vatm | Apr 27, 2010 7:58:41 PM

  7. Rednecks piece of white trailer trash comes to mind when reading this piece

    Posted by: vatm | Apr 27, 2010 7:59:28 PM

  8. Well, at least she's graduating and can get past high school. There's a reason immature behavior is forever known by that name. Usually, it's because of the kids, and not the education staff. But I guess it applies all around in Mississippi.

    As a gay man, I'm often reminded of that clever guy whom the Devil granted one wish - and his wish was that, without there being any change whatsoever in his own situation, he become the poorest, most miserable and unfortunate person on earth.

    Sometimes it's tough being part of the last group it's ok to hate in the USA. But if there has to be such a group, I'm glad it's me instead of someone else. I have high hopes that Ceara will live to see the day when there's no groups left to openly hate.

    In the meantime, I suggest she graduate school and get the hell out of there if she can. Thank goodness there are already plenty of places where gays are treated with respect and dignity (and ho-humness). I hope she can make it to one of those. The weather's beautiful in L.A., by the way.

    Posted by: Zlick | Apr 27, 2010 8:05:39 PM

  9. The same kind of thing happened to me with my high school graduation in 1994. I had painted a pink triangle on my mortarboard. The principle pulled me aside and told me that unless I wore another mortarboard without anything painted on it, I would not be allowed to walk down the aisle. With a bunch of friends and my family in the audience, I gave in.

    Funnily enough, the following year the school had some big diversity campaign. I wonder if the school administration was afraid they were going to get sued. My senior year was hell!

    Posted by: J.P. | Apr 27, 2010 8:07:24 PM

  10. I was also top student who was looked down upon for my sexuality. But I can't imagine them completely deleting me from the yearbook. I'm writing a letter. Mississippi is a disgrace.

    Posted by: Nicholas | Apr 27, 2010 8:08:17 PM

  11. Here's my letter:

    Hello Principal Greer,

    I'm sure you've received a wide range of emails/faxes/phone calls from angry and disgusted people regarding your school's decision to remove any picture or mention of Ceara Sturgis from her senior yearbook. I'm not that angry...just disappointed.

    I think it is pretty sad and depressing that in 2010, these types of things are still even happening. It's just a picture, a pretty harmless one at that. It's not sexually explicit, it doesn't condone or preach some kind of lifestyle, it's simply her way of dressing up for her senior portrait and looking, in her mind, her best. I think it's wonderful to encourage freedom of expression in children, instead of trying to make them be anything they're not, or force them into a roll that is approved by an elder.

    Gay children aren't going away. No matter how strongly you feel about the matter, it's always going to be a reality of the world. Maybe if people like yourself stood up for children like this, gay/lesbian children wouldn't be so likely to commit suicide as compared to their straight peers. How would you feel if the school you loved and went to for 12 years decided that something as inane as a senior portrait was enough to justify removing you completely from the yearbook? It's pretty heartless to me.

    From what I understand, Ceara is a great student and deserves to be recognized. I hope you, the school board, and the administration take action immediately to correct this grievance.

    Thank you very much,
    Matt G (a very well adjusted, upstanding citizen and gay man who used to be from a small town and a small-minded high school in PA not too long ago)

    Posted by: Matt G | Apr 27, 2010 8:11:45 PM

  12. We need to root out and destroy these high school administrators who are responsible for this. These people teach OUR children. There is a trust in teaching. A trust that cannot be violated by personal bias or the personality flaws of the teacher/administrator. It is calling that few people who teach (at any level, whether that be college or high school, or grade school) are qualified to accept. It requires transcending yourself, and providing a sober delivery of argument, fact, and skill. Any man or woman who breaks this sacred trust needs to be exposed and shunned from the profession. If ideals can't exist in that profession, they can't exist anywhere.

    Posted by: TANK | Apr 27, 2010 8:13:06 PM

  13. The city's website is pretty classic, too.

    Thanks for the blessings, Mayor.

    Posted by: Luis | Apr 27, 2010 8:16:58 PM

  14. No I'm not a douchebag or ignorant. Yes I live in Texas but in Houston.....we just elected the nations first gay mayor of a top 5 American city.

    I think Ceara should be able to wear what she wants to wear and be who she wants to be; just not in a senior year book photo. The school has the right to enforce a dress code to keep a level of decorum.

    Seems like a silly stunt to me. Boo Hoo, I'm so oppressed, I wanted to wear my male tuxedo for my senior year book photo.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Apr 27, 2010 8:40:24 PM

  15. Dress codes deal in the area of logical vagueness (one of my specialties). If a dress code is at the service of gender normativity (and sexual normativity), and we agree that gender normativity enforces beliefs that are corrosive to social cohesion (bigotry against sexual orientation is anathema to social cohesion), we can agree that the dress code in question is suspect, at the least. Barring gross nudity or gross breach of decorum, we can agree that the enforcement of the policy serves no socially redeeming purpose. Therefore, the enforcement of this dress code is without warrant.

    Fill the hidden premise if you're smart enough.

    Separately, that doesn't justify her omission from the graduating class altogether. Now how do you respond to that, brian?

    Posted by: TANK | Apr 27, 2010 8:52:33 PM

  16. yeah, Brian, you still sound like an ignorant douche.

    Maybe it's a reading comprehension thing, or maybe you have no sense of empathy, but you're so far off base that it's kinda sad. Maybe your school did a good job of making you a robot but there are many of us who still choose to be our unique selves before we bow down to the petty rules and regulations of intolerant, low-level civil servants. Rules they dream up just to keep a semblance of power and control.
    So, sorry B, maybe you're not a douche, but you're not the sort of person to judge Ceara either.

    Posted by: Kitty Boots | Apr 27, 2010 8:57:38 PM

  17. 'Decorum' does NOT explain why they didn't list her name. Also, 'Decorum' would mean NOT having photos of Drop-outs or Drugees. what message does that send to students? get busted for drugs...you're in. Drop out of school...you're in. Wear a tuxedo (which look amazing in her photo) ...you're out!

    Brian, face it. You are a douchebag.

    Posted by: New Jersey Girl | Apr 27, 2010 9:05:28 PM

  18. Ah screw the high school. Ceara will probably go to college and then found a fortune 500 company and make a quadzillion dollars a year. Then she could buy he high school and burn it to the ground after firing everyone.

    Posted by: Harry | Apr 27, 2010 9:18:33 PM

  19. the high school officials are pathetic and should be fired, BUT people like Brian in Texas ARE WORSE and disgust me. you DISGUST ME, you pathetic ignorant SOB. do us all a favor and just come out as the homophobic (and most likely) racist straight republican you're dying to be.

    Posted by: casey | Apr 27, 2010 9:31:02 PM

  20. I hope this girl can just get the hell out of Mississippi as soon as she graduates and see that there is another world beyond her current, perennially backward one. It certainly worked for me and I've never looked back (at least never looked back with anything other than relief that I don't have to deal with such backward-ass people anymore).

    Posted by: Tom | Apr 27, 2010 9:33:40 PM

  21. Yes. I advise that she get the hell out. I'm from Mississippi myself and I think Southern California (minus certain parts) is just grand!

    Posted by: Matthew | Apr 27, 2010 9:49:24 PM

  22. The superintendent of the school is an example of what you get when brothers and sisters fuck.

    Posted by: Tone | Apr 27, 2010 10:21:01 PM

  23. In my high school yearbook they put my picture on a separate page from the other pictures with just my name underneath it (no quotation, no activities---it looked like I'd died and it was a memorial shot). They claimed it was because I'd skipped 11th grade and they didn't have time to fit it in. That was absurd, because I decided to skip 11th grade in 10th grade and was a senior the entire year.

    No, I wasn't wearing makeup or anything odd, but they all knew I was gay. That was 1988. And a guidance counselor told me I couldn't cross the stage at graduation unless I removed my right earring. I told her to fuck off. I had perfect grades as well, so it saddens me to see shit like this continue.

    Posted by: Paul R | Apr 27, 2010 10:49:34 PM

  24. Well let's see now, Mississippi treats a lesbian student as though she doesn't exist, and Texas backs it up.

    sounds about right.

    Posted by: Sean | Apr 27, 2010 10:50:54 PM

  25. High School is the new Front Line for our movement. Students like Cera Sturgis deserve 110% of our support -- and MORE!

    THIS is bravery.

    THIS is resolve.

    THIS is what matters.

    Not Joe Solomonese and the HRC.

    Here's my personal salute to two more brave gay teens you may not have heard of


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Apr 27, 2010 11:13:02 PM

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