A Louisiana high school refuses to let a female student wear a tuxedo to prom. It’s not only flirting with a lawsuit, it’s perpetuating archaic gender roles.
According to officials at Ellender High School in Louisiania’s Terrebonne parish, 19-year old student Monique Verdin, who donned suits at past dances, can’t wear the tuxedo she rented for prom because “good order and discipline,” as well as “tradition,” dictate women wear gowns or dresses to the annual event. And, to prove their point, they’ve cited a 1987 — or, 24-year old — lawsuit that supports their decision.
Verdin’s father, Jody Bergeron, pleaded personally with the principal, but the educator remained adamant.
Says Bergeron, “[The principal] said it’s his rule, that it was his school and, being the principal, he is going to enforce his rules.”
Those rules, however, make the school look like backward fools. And, more importantly, open it up for a lawsuit.
While the school thinks a 1987 suit justifies their position, they’re ignoring more recent cases in which gender-biases have been struck down. John DeSantis from ‘Houma Today’ offers some background:
Ken Upton, an attorney for Lambda Legal, an organization that litigates gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues, said schools can set dress standards for proms but they cannot make those standards gender-specific.
The Gary, Ind., school district had a policy prohibiting clothing “advertising sexual orientation.”
K.K. Logan, a transgender student who showed up at prom in a dress, was denied entry. Lambda filed suit in federal court, alleging that the school violated rights that included freedom of speech, symbolic action and expressive conduct. The settlement for an undisclosed amount of money included revisions of the dress codes.
This dust-up reminds me of two stories from last year: in separate incidents out of Mississippi and Minnesota, respectively, students were punished for having dreadlocks and long hair.
As in the Louisiana scenario, those schools were restricting students’ individual expression, which definitely qualifies as “bad education.” This incident, however, veers into heterosexist territory: the idea that women should be, and therefore dress, in a certain way, while men should be, and also dress, in another.
It’s astonishing to me that 27-years after the recently departed Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice-president and in the face of LGBT activism, education officials are still drumming gender “traditions” that have no place in our modern world.
If a 19-year old — and therefore adult! — woman wants to wear a tuxedo, what’s the big deal? Unless, of course, the school’s experiencing some queer-tinged panic, in which case it needs to get over itself and realize that times are changing, and not all women are, to use Verdin’s phrase, “girly-girls.”