States in the Deep South are not typically depicted as bastions of progressive values, but Claudetteia Love, a senior at Carroll High School in Monroe, Louisiana, is taking a strong public stance against what she sees as a subtle act of discrimination by school officials. The openly gay Louisiana student will miss prom considering the no-tuxedo rule that Carroll High has insisted she must abide by because she is female.
Although the school said it was an issue of following the dress code, Love said officials were denying her the right to express herself according to her sexual orientation, rather than debate about her fashion choices. The News-Star reported that Love, an honors student at Carroll High, was torn up about missing the April 24 prom, surely the highlight of many a teenager's high school career. She told the Monroe newspaper tearfully:
I told my mom, "They're using me. They put me in all these honors and advanced placement classes so I can take all of these tests and get good grades and better the school, but when it's time for me to celebrate the fact that I've accomplished what I need to accomplish and I'm about to graduate, they don't want to let me do it, the way I want to."
The school's principal Patrick Taylor told the local paper that it was a dress code decision, not a personal one against Love. But there are signs suggesting latent discrimination against LGBT rights, at least as far as a stubborn conviction on strict gender norms indicate. According to Love's mother, Geraldine Jackson, Taylor told her that faculty members had said they would refuse to chaperone the event if girls showed up in tuxedos:
That's his exact words — "Girls wear dresses and boys wear tuxes, and that's the way it is."
Since the incident garnered media attention nationwide, the Monroe City School Board President Rodney McFarland has weighed in on the controversy, telling the local paper that he will contact Superintendent Brent Vidrine to ask that he discuss the issue with Taylor. McFarland said:
As school board president, I don't agree with Carroll banning her from her prom just because of what she wants to wear — that's discrimination. As far as I know, there is no Monroe City School Board policy saying what someone has to wear to attend the prom. You can't just go making up policies.
In a school that has a dismal performance score, Love is one of its academically brightest. She was one among a group of students that the Monroe City School Board presented at a meeting last year as part of Carroll High's high-achieving medical magnet program, according to The News-Star, and will represent the school at the annual Scholars' Banquet event for top students in the parish. Upon graduation, Love is set to attend Jackson State University on a full academic scholarship.
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