Originally created 11/24/03

High school senior challenges rule against same-sex dance dates



BIG PINEY, Wyo. -- A straight teenager is challenging a school district policy that bars students from bringing same-sex dates to school dances.

In September, Amanda Blair tried to defy the rule by taking another young woman to the homecoming dance at Big Piney High School. They were kept out by sheriff's deputies at the request of school officials.

Blair, a senior at Big Piney, has now enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties in formally calling on Sublette County School District No. 9 to lift the same-sex date ban.

In a letter sent Thursday to Superintendent B. Weldon Shelley, the ACLU stated the policy violates a 1980 federal court ruling out of Rhode Island. The decision handed down in Frick v. Lynch found that students who bring same-sex dates to school dances are not only protected by the Constitution but that schools must take steps to ensure their safety when they attend the dances.

Ken Choe, of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, said the ban violates students' constitutional rights to freedom of expression and equal treatment.

Blair said her test of the policy is meant to help and support her peers who are homosexual.

"I think it would be a lot harder if I were a lesbian to do this for myself. I'm helping those who are."

Blair and her mother went to the school board after the homecoming dance, asking that the rule be changed. Kris Blair said she and her daughter contacted the ACLU after getting no sign from board members that the ban was going to be lifted.

A Sadie Hawkins event scheduled for Friday night was called off after school officials said there could be no dances in the district, according to Blair.

Shelley, the superintendent, was out of town Friday and Big Piney Principal Lee Kinney did not return calls. The district's attorney was traveling and not available for comment.



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