Tuscaloosa County, AL Threatened with Lawsuit for Censoring Gay Student, Barring Her from Prom

The Tuscaloosa County Board of Education is being threatened with a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is ordering the district "to stop its censorship of speech supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and its prohibition against same-sex couples at the prom" according to the Tuscaloosa News.

GarrettThe threat stems from at least one alleged incident in early January:

On Jan. 5, a Brookwood High School administrator asked Elizabeth Garrett, a 10th-grader at Brookwood, to remove a hooded sweatshirt with a slogan on it reading, “Warning, This Individual Infected With ‘The Gay,' Proceed With Caution.”

When asked why she had to take off the sweatshirt, the administrator told Garrett that it was distracting, said Sam Wolfe, the SPLC attorney leading the case. Garret disagreed with the administrator, but took off the sweatshirt in the bathroom while the administrator waited outside to confirm that she had removed the sweatshirt when she came out.

According to the SPLC:

On another occasion during this school year, the same administrator informed Elizabeth that same-sex couples are not permitted to attend the school prom together. Elizabeth has plans to attend the prom, in May, with another female student.

Elizabeth says she is taking this action not only for herself “but for others like me who feel trampled over by the school and don’t always have an opportunity to stand up for themselves.”

Tuscaloosa County Schools Superintendent Frank Costanzo says there is no record of the incident and there is no written policy barring same-sex couples from attending prom.

The SPLC has given the school district a date of February 1 to comply with its demands or be sued.

The SPLC's page on the case is here.

Posted January 25, 2012 at 7:30pm ETC by Andy Towle
in Alabama, education, News