Community Supports Fight Against Discrimination
When Tamalpais High School senior Sarah Schwartz heard that Constance McMillen from Fulton, MS was banned from her senior prom because she wished to bring her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo, she decided to take action of her own. Schwartz is now trying to arrange for McMillen and her girlfriend to attend Tam’s prom. When McMillen was informed by Itawamba Agricultural High School that she and her girlfriend would not be permitted to attend prom, she teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to try to convince the school to change its decision. On March 10, the prom was canceled altogether.
Schwartz said, “I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have your community and school turn against you in your senior year, regardless of the reason why.”
First Schwartz’s created a Facebook group called “Bring Constance to Tam Prom” to gain student support.
“The Facebook group had about 150 members within hours of posting it. Now, it’s at 500 and growing,” said Schwartz. “Pretty soon, it wasn’t just Tam students—there were high school students from all over the district, and then soon, there were adults and other community members from all over. There are even group postings from people who heard about our effort across the country.”
In addition to raising support from the student body, Schwartz had to get permission from the administration. On March 18, Schwartz met with Link Crew adviser and English teacher Abbey Levine, assistant principal Kim Stiffler, and principal Tom Drescher. All three approved the idea, which was then proposed to Superintendant Laurie Kimbrel, who gave the final okay.
“I completely support Sarah’s effort to bring Constance McMillen to the Tam prom,” Kimbrel said. “Sarah should be commended for reaching out to Constance and for recognizing that she can help someone who has been unfairly discriminated against.”
On March 24, Schwartz contacted a representative from the ACLU. The agent agreed to relay to McMillen Schwartz’s invitation to Tam’s prom on May 19. The next step is to wait for a response from McMillen, as to whether she would like to attend the Tam prom with her girlfriend.
Whether or not Constance chooses to attend Tam’s prom, Schwartz is proud of the support the community provided.
“Even if Constance decides not to come, that doesn’t change the statement that this community has made, nor the effort that it made, and I think that the support shows that this is truly a wonderful place we live in,” she said.
In addition to receiving staff and student support, Schwartz has received vast out-of-school support.
“I’ve gotten calls from other community members offering to support and/or donate to us,” Schwartz said. “One restaurant mentioned offering a prom dinner for Constance and the group. A local philanthropist called me to offer to fund the entire thing if we needed it. The support is inspiring, and impressive.”
Schwartz’s actions have received attention from several news sources. Media response has included recognition from the Marin Independent Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com, KTVU and CBS.
Written by Racine Cermak. Appears in the April 2010 Version of The Tam News.