Missouri High School Faces Lawsuit Over Policy Banning Same-Sex Prom Dates [UPDATE]
Dawson says he contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center after looking around on the internet for stories similar to his. The SPLC has represented many LGBT students around the country in this identical situation.
"We're very proud of students like Stacy who are brave enough to come forward and challenge unconstitutional policies," says Alesdair Ittelson, the SPLC attorney working on Dawson's case.
Yesterday, Principal Rich Thomas and Scott County Central School District Superintendent Alvin McFerren received a letter from the SPLC saying that the rule violates Dawson's First Amendment right to free expression and the Equal Protection Act of the Fourteenth Amendment:
Without prompt and meaningful action to remedy the constitutional violations suffered by our client and to compensate him for the harm caused by the District's policy, we intend to file a federal lawsuit seeking full redress, including but not limited to injunctive and declaratory relief, damages, and attorneys' fees and expenses.
When Daily RFT called Thomas at the school yesterday, he said he "wasn't aware" of the complaint and promised to call back with a response. We've yet to hear back.
"The principal has a responsibility to ensure that his policies don't violate the rights of his students," says Ittelson. "We certainly hope the school will understand that maybe they made a mistake and didn't realize they were violating the law. But if we have to file a suit we're fully prepared to do."
As for Dawson, he says he just wants to go to prom.
"It's something that I feel strongly about. I want to help not only me, but if anyone else who is in the same situation," he says. "My ideal prom is just to bring my boyfriend and be able to have as much fun as everyone else."
Update: Ittelson says that Superintendent McFerren reached out to Dawson's guardian, his grandmother, and said that Dawson will be able to attend prom with his boyfriend. However, they have not responded directly to the SPLC. We've left messages for both McFerren and Principal Thomas, but this is what McFerren told NBC News:
"It was never intended to be a discriminatory thing," he said. "We want an educational environment for all of our kids and we're not ever going to discriminate as to whether or not the board has the policy and we don't do that based on sexual orientation. Period."
Ittelson also read us the text messages he's been getting from Dawson today saying that he's gotten "amazing feedback from some of his fellow students."
"I'm really feeling the love and I thank them for being so supportive," Dawson wrote. "The revising of the school policy makes me ecstatic. I'll get to spend this incredibly important moment with my boyfriend."
However, Ittelson says the matter will not be closed in the eyes of the SPLC until they've received written confirmation that the rule will be erased from the student handbook.
"Stacy feels very strongly, as do we, that this is not just about him. This is about students that come after him," says Ittelson.
Check out the full letter from the SPLC to the Scott County School District administrators below: