A young lesbian couple in Alabama have been told that they will now been allowed to attend school prom together. The women attend Alexandria High School in Calhoun County.
On 30 January, Janizia Ross, 17, asked her girlfriend if she would attend the school prom as her date.
Her girlfriend, Raven (who prefers not to give her surname), was performing in a school talent show. After she finished her performance at Alexandria High School, Ross got up on stage to ask her to the prom.
This led to disciplinary action from the school. Officials promptly suspended Ross.
The school says that Ross had initially asked for permission to present her girlfriend with a poster. It simply had the word ‘Prom’ and a question mark and rainbow. It at first said yes, but then thought again and said no.
The organizer of the stage show did not know the school had turned down the request. They duly invited Ross to the stage.
The school says Ross’ suspension was due to rule breaking, and not because it doesn’t support diversity – although this was questioned by other students on social media.
‘When you have children who are black and who are LGBT, you are always worried about their safety’
Calhoun County School District has written to advocacy group Lambda Legal to state that now that Ross’ suspension period is over, she and Raven will be allowed to attend prom together.
‘We are encouraged by the school’s response and we are pleased the district has provided clear and unequivocal confirmation that the girls can attend prom together,’ said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney and Students’ Rights Strategist Paul D Castillo in a statement.
‘This is a great first step, and we are hopeful that we can work together with Calhoun County School District to effect real change for LGBT students because every student deserves a safe and affirming environment.’
‘My girlfriend and I have been looking forward to prom night for weeks. I am so relieved that the school said we can go to prom together. Now we can get back to dress shopping just like all the other girls in school,’ said Janizia Ross.
Ross’ mother, Jeanise Ross-Walton, added: ‘When you have children who are black and who are LGBT, you are always worried about their safety. We look to our schools to create safe spaces for them when they are away from us at home. I’m glad that we have proof that my daughter and her girlfriend can go to prom together, and I hope that is a sign that our children will be treated like every other student going forward.’
Lambda Legal initially sent a letter to Calhoun County School District asking for the women to be allowed to the prom, and for the suspension to be expunged. The latter request is still being reviewed, according to the legal advocacy group.