Mississippi High School Refuses to Include Lesbian in Yearbook

Ceara

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."
 

Comments

  1. RB says

    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!!!

  2. Brian in Texas says

    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.

  3. Dickster says

    @ 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?

    Cheers,
    D.

  4. wtf says

    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.

  5. Zlick says

    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.

  6. says

    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!

  7. Nicholas says

    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.

  8. Matt G says

    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)

  9. TANK says

    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.

  10. Brian in Texas says

    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.

  11. TANK says

    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?

  12. Kitty Boots says

    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.

  13. New Jersey Girl says

    ‘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.

  14. Harry says

    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.

  15. says

    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.

  16. Tom says

    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).

  17. Matthew says

    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!

  18. Tone says

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

  19. Paul R says

    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.

  20. Sean says

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

    sounds about right.

  21. TANK says

    SHUT UP, DE! You have an opinion, voice it. Don’t be sad, and depend on the hits of more popular websites to promote it. Goddamnit.

  22. Truth says

    Maybe she’s better off. At least she knows exactly how they feel about her and maybe it’ll make it that much easier for her to high tail it outta that ass backwards place. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and remove any reference to me in my yearbooks — why on earth would I want to pictured side by side with the bigots, homophobes & small-minded assholes I was forced to spend time with every day for 12 years? I got myself out of a small town ASAP and finally my life could begin. Be strong Ceara, you are so much better than those idiots.

  23. ajd says

    Brian in Texas,

    Do you realize that Marlene Dietrich wore a tuxedo in the movie Morocco? This was 1930. No one complained then — because the outfit is not revealing, not overtly sexual, not tacky. It’s a simple suit.

    http://www.dandeliondesign.ca/Ties/marleneD.gif

    But Marlene Dietrich was not a lesbian, at least to the knowledge of the general public. The only reason this violates ‘decorum’ is that she’s a lesbian and they think her wearing a tux means everyone has to know she’s a lesbian. That’s what it is, and we all know it. Stop trying to defend these backwards assholes. You lose. Good day sir.

  24. Come on says

    Katherine Hepburn always wore pant suits and hated wearing makeup and she wasn’t a lesbian!

  25. shane says

    Honestly, they’re scared about straight girls turning gay for her. She’s cuter than the original: Justin Bieber. Good on you, Ceara.

  26. wesmccomas says

    First of all, Wesson Attendance Center is in Wesson,MS not Jackson, MS. Second of all, I live in Jackson,MS and have recieved all my education in Mississippi – including a Master Degree in Social Work. I find the blind judgemental comments which have been posted amusing. Most of those posting don’t even know where Mississippi is on a map- yet some are guick to comment about the institutional homophobia which exist here. Why don’t you guys try looking in your own backyard more? Why should we be too surpirsed when the ugly head of homphobia raises its head? Instead of attacking those who are attempting to spew this hatred why not attempt to understand where this is coming from. Most of these people involved are good people. Most are very conservative religious folk. But they are not the spawn of Satan – they are scared closed minded people who are afraid to see beyond their little world- I am sure some of the readers of this website understands can relate.

  27. TANK says

    Don’t be bashin’ merlene. Don’t ever do that…and this is what that does…least not if you like talking “around” me. Some people have betty white who’ve got them through tough periods in their life (apparently); I’ve merlene…one of a kind (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3ET1b0ymZs). Few rules. One, DE don’t be pathetic. Two, don’t bash marlene. Ever. Subject to revision. Anyway…brian’s the only real “opposition” here, so count your blessings. There’s nothing more pathetic (and DE isn’t even close, and never will be) to a gay men that sells his own kind up the river for whatever reason. And there’s plenty of you that are “circumstantials” pluse 18 years of age, ready with excuses and justifications. KAPOS! After 18 (ahhh, vagueness…never felt so at home…never…thank you old man…who taught me), no excuses. A man is a man after suckling at the tit of childhood. “You got no excuse for not being who you were born to be after that, no matter how pretty you are.” These assholes on this schoolboard need to go.

  28. Come on says

    Who’s bashing Marlene? He was making the point that just because a woman wears a tuxedo, she shouldn’t be discriminated against because it is a suit. Straight or lesbian. Just like Katherine Hepburn went against conventional dress and wore pantsuits. Would this highschool delete any reference to a straight girl who wore a suit (like Marlene and Katherine) or is it because a lesbian wore a suit? Is it the suit or the lesbianism they have a problem with and the suit is just an excuse? BTW DE didn’t mention Marlene, AJD did.

  29. TANK says

    Marlene wasn’t straight–how dare you! Though, given my argument, she was (that’s why DR needed to grow a set and argue with me…and lost because same sex couples can’t marry or enjoy the rights of opposite sex couples, etc). It’s the lesbianism that they had a problem with, and there’s no disputin’ that.

  30. wtf says

    SO Brian, how exactly is a girl wearing a tuxedo lacking decorum? Explain, and TRY not to sound like a douchebag. What’s that? You can’t? Thought so. Either you’re being purposely obtuse about the real issue here, or you are just a complete and utter failure at understanding how discrimination and bigotry work and what it looks like. I’d say the former, which still puts you in douchebag territory. Oh, and Houston? What a pit.

  31. Rocky says

    Mississippi can go FUCK itself.Its amazing how many homophobic/racist rednecks in that stupid state.They can rot in their own filth

  32. says

    My email to this man:

    To Mr Greer,
    I’m writing to you to express my disgust at your non-inclusion of Ceara Sturgis in your school’s yearbook.

    Regardless of this student’s sexual orientation or gender expression she deserves to have her achievements and photo in the yearbook, like any other student.

    If you have pictures of kids with drug charges in there, surely a young girl with good grades isn’t too hard to include.

    All people are created equal, Mr Greer. And your actions are inexcusable and wrong.

    Please reconsider your decision and the implications it has for this girl.

    Yours,
    Isobel Connell

  33. wesmccomas says

    Rocky- your post has not one thread of usefulness to this discussion. You possibly could be as closed minded as the school officals in Wesson (or maybe more). The only different is possibly the school officals are acting out of ignorance and not hate. It seems your post has both.

  34. Disgusted American says

    Well I don’t expect anything less from these Bigoted ,Hateful states anymore…interesting tho…I graduated in 1979, and a girl wore a Tux to her senior prom,and in her Year book pic,and barely anyone batted an eye….tho this is the NE ie: PA…Phila to be exact….I think it has alot to do with location,and religious Brainwashing…ie: Southern Nitwit states.

  35. candideinnc says

    Bullies. They did it because they are mean spirited, narrow minded, little people. These are the same a-holes that would let a young girl go to her prom with the person she likes. These are the petty Thugs who elected that fat ass Barbour to high office, who wear their religion on their shirt sleeves, but never practice what they preach. Bunch of phony hypocrites!

  36. says

    Brian in Texas- my grandmother was buried wearing her favorite pantsuit. If that was good enough for her, a tuxedo is good enough for a yearbook photo.

  37. says

    Here is my letter:

    Dear Donald Greer and Oscar Hawkins,

    I read a story from the Jackson Free Press about a student named Ceara Sturgis in her senior year of high school at Wesson Attendance Center. I read that her picture was going to be deleted from her yearbook, and I understand that this is because of the student’s wish to wear a tuxedo instead of a dress. I understand from Superintendent Ricky Clopton that your decision to delete her picture is based upon “sound educational policy”, even though students who have been busted for drugs and who have dropped out from school had their pictures included in the same yearbook, and even though Ceara had wonderful grades compared to the rest of her classmates. When the yearbook did come out, Ceara Sturgis’ name was completely removed, and none of her accolades for her academic performances were mentioned – it was as if Ceara had never existed at Wesson Attendance Center despite her twelve years there. When considering a sound educational policy, it seems perplexing that clothing attire would take such an egregious precedence compared to serious matters such as academic performance, drug use and dropping out of school. However, I also understand that Ceara Sturgis is a lesbian, and I am aware of the pervasive and crippling homophobia in the state of Mississippi that would drive institutions such as high schools to discriminate against those whose sexual orientations are different, despite educational policy. If I could be frank, it seems like a walk over a small crack on the sidewalk as opposed to a leap of faith to think that Wesson Attendance Center removed Ceara Sturgis completely from her yearbook primarily because she is a lesbian, in the name of a sound educational policy that appears to defy drug usage and schoold drop-outs and scof at individual academic excellence. If I were Ceara Sturgis, I would feel thankful to be free from association with a school that appears to be enslaved by the repugnance and cowardice of bigotry, but I would also hope that the school finds a way to free itself from this bigotry, because the world is a beautiful place when everyone is free together, as Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed decades ago. Donald Greer and Oscar Hawkins, we will do what we can to help free both of you and everyone else at Wesson Attendance Center, for I can’t wait for the day when all of us are free at last.

    Sincerely,
    Sean Chapin

  38. jakeinlove says

    I’m glad there was information to contact these….people.
    =========================================
    I just read a very disturbing article about a student, Ceara Sturgis. Yes, that’s her name and she does exist. For someone in the position of education, who received a “higher education”, your actions are those of someone who never saw the light of an education, class, culture, or diversity. You cripple the future of this country.

    We may have laws in this country to not physically abuse our children, but apparently it’s quite legal to mentally abuse them.

  39. SCV Malcolm says

    I am grateful for the opportunity to e-mail Oscar and Ronald. Given that they reside in the Gold Buckle of the Bible Belt, I reminded them that Jesus said: “It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble” Luke 17:2. Remember the events that Jerry Foulmouth and Pat Robotson blamed on the gays? Well here we have two recent examples of H.S. bigotry in Mississippi and the tornados hit…

  40. TANK says

    The queen’s a useless ghetto gay. Stand up wherever you are. You don’t have to run to the gay ghetto for “sanctuary,” and just be another marginalized stereotype. Improve your surroundings, and never tolerate discrimination.

    We’re all missing the bigger issue here. And it’s that far too many young butch lesbians look like buddy hackett. We need to get to the bottom of this pronto!

  41. Come On says

    So you are saying Katherine Hepburn just “made up” their relationship to hide her lesbianism? So of ALL the men in Hollywood she could have a “fake” relationship with, or all of the world for that matter, she chose Tracy, a married man? They went to the trouble of hiding it for many years since the mere mention of their affair would ruin their careers especially in that era and it was common knowledge to those around them, including his wife (IIRC). And they did this all to hide her being a lesbian??? Just because she didn’t like wearing a dress and prefered pant suits? Dahling, you sound like one of the “educators” in the above story.

  42. wtf says

    The ‘Queen': you are a repugnant piece of trash. We’ve done so nicely without you for quite some time, so run along back into your liquor bottle and perpetuate your internalized homophobia bullshit on your own reflection if you can even stand to gaze upon it. I personally can not WAIT for the day when tragic dinosaurs like you fucking die and leave the rest of us who work towards changing the world for the better in peace without the reminder of marginalized BULLSHIT messages like yours. Go suck a used tampon, bitch. BTW, my parents KNEW Kate and Spence and she was NOT a dyke, you fucking lying cuntbag. If she were, she would’ve been the first person to own it. She had class. Unlike YOU.

  43. pampermyass says

    It’s too bad that many people are personally attacking Brian in Texas for expressing his opinion. You can disagree with what he says, fine, but calling him a douchebag, come on.

  44. drake onian says

    Alabama’s gotten me so upset
    Tennessee made me lose my rest
    And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam!

  45. Jay says

    Ok I can understand the picture because my school also had dress code rules for the yearbook pictures, rules are rules. However, the complete exclusion from the yearbook-THAT is uncalled for and ridiculous, they ought to be ashamed of themselves for ostracizing her like that all over a “clothing dispute” omitting a picture and completely omitting a person are two very different things….sick

  46. g_whiz says

    You know, part of the problem is the response we tend to offer as a community tends to be “Hope they can get out of there” when it comes to the open hostility and quite blatant discrimination these high school aged gays and lesbians face in this area of the nation. What if they actually like the communities they’re being rejected by and punished in? We shouldn’t have to flee to larger, arguably more accepting cities in order to live a functional life. Of course, I understand it doesn’t mean that its not for the best, but gay people exist in all walks of life. Not everyone has the luxury of picking up and moving.

    And for the record, blaming the victim for not being somehow “appropriate” while others in her cohort with similar violations arent IS the textbook definition of coded discrimination. They just whitewashed their school of “the gay”, and you just justified it because she chose to wear…what, a tuxedo? So any girl that wears a pantsuit is automatically barred from any idea they existed in a school distirct and that strikes you as a normal approach to school policy? There’s far more to it than that, but the idea of being “appropriate” or being striken from the record here is appauling. Sadly, its what we’ve learned to expect from this monsterous state.

  47. Bob says

    Here’s the letter I sent:

    I must be counted as one of the many who condemn your execrable, bigoted, un-American behavior by excising Ceara Sturgis from her yearbook.

    Please – let me know exactly when you decided that Ms. Sturgis no longer deserved the dignity accorded other students. Please let me know when you determined that, after 12 years at your school, she became a non-person. More importantly, please let me know what other means you use to degrade and debase other students, and by what yardstick you can measure yourselves ‘educators.’

    Shame on your school and shame on you both. It is my hope that Ceara’s story becomes national, exposing your hypocrisy and hollow sanctimony.

  48. rhydderch says

    @Brian in Texas
    Why are you here? And don’t act like you’re all enlightened because your town has a lesbian mayor. Everyone knows that only the folks in midtown Houston were even eligible to vote for mayor because it’s Houston in name only, most of “Houston” is simply unincorporated areas. So the the boys on Montrose voted for a lesbian. You think you deserve a cookie? Your attitude is the very self-hating homo shtick that caused me to get the hell out of Texas years ago. You Texas queens are nothing but a Mattachine Society 2010

  49. Regan DuCasse says

    at least she’s DRESSING UP in something FORMAL. It seems to me, she respects dressing nicely.
    Some kids don’t take such a thing seriously at all and dress like slobs for occasions.

    In my neighborhood, there is a huge Catholic church and as my husband and I were driving to have breakfast, I was appalled at the casual dress of the congregants. I mean, they looked like they were going to the beach or the hardware store!

    At least the Jewish and black women checking in with God, wear sensational hats for the occasion that it is.

    Look at the smile on that girl. It’s beautiful. Hard for a dress OR tux to compete with THAT.