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    Posted October 18, 2009 by
    Wesson, Mississippi
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    School stands by decision on photo Lesbian who a wore tux standing up for supporters.Discrimination!


    Ceara Sturgis, a senior at Wesson Attendance Center, said she does not understand why the Copiah County School District has taken such a hard stance against including her in the school's yearbook.

    Sturgis, who is gay, had her senior portrait taken wearing a tuxedo, rather than the customary drape. Last month, her mother, Veronica Rodriguez, was informed by school officials her daughter's photo would not be included in the yearbook.

    In a statement released Friday to the Copiah County Courier, school Superintendent Ricky Clopton said the district has no intention of reversing its decision.

    "We have had our legal counsel research the validity of the position of the School District on this matter," he said in the statement. "We are informed by counsel that this exact issue has been litigated in federal court. The decisions of the federal courts completely support the policy of the district in this regard. It is the desire of the Copiah County School District to inform, first, the patrons of the district, and second, all other interested parties, that its position is not arbitrary, capricious or unlawful, but is based upon sound educational policy and legal precedent."

    Sturgis is a standout student at Wesson Attendance Center, a K-12 school with about 1,000 students. She is a National Honor Society member, active in school athletics and other extracurricular activities.

    On Friday, she played trumpet with the marching band at the school football game in Enterprise. Sturgis said she wants to press forward with her fight to be included in the yearbook.

    "I'm standing up for a bunch of people who support me," she said. "It's an honor."

    Seventh-grader Timothy Craft said Sturgis has a lot of support for her stand among the students at Wesson.

    "She has plenty of friends. Lots of friends," he said.

    Cody Young, a 17-year-old junior, said he and his fellow students do not care if Sturgis wants to wear a tuxedo in her senior picture. In fact, the administration's approach is puzzling, he said.

    "It seems like the school just found out about the situation, that she is gay and dresses like a guy," he said. "She's been dressing like a guy since the ninth grade."

    A Facebook fan page set up last week in Sturgis' honor already has more than 250 members.

    Candace Gingrich of the Human Rights Campaign, a group which seeks equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, said it is not uncommon for gay students to clash with school officials. In part, that's a product of having more gay students who are open and secure about their sexuality, she said.

    "It's a matter of self expression and for some gay and lesbian kids and kids who are transgender that includes wearing clothes that people don't associate with that gender," she said.

    Schoolteachers and administrators often lag well behind their students in acceptance of the gays and lesbians in their midst, Gingrich said.

    "It's wonderful for the students themselves, but it still causes friction because teachers, administrators and school board members are literally from another generation," she said.

    Rodriguez said she tried to work the matter out with school officials, but when they would not budge, she took the issue to the Mississippi Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Rodriguez said the issue is one of equal treatment for all.

    "Look, 50 years ago we were talking about blacks in America. Now we're talking about gays in America," she said. "Everybody is human."

    The ACLU has written a letter demanding the school district reverse the decision.

    Kristy Bennet, ACLU legal director, said the district has violated Sturgis' rights of freedom of expression and right to equal treatment under the law.

    "I think I have just as much right as everyone else to be in that yearbook," Ceara Sturgis says about the decision officials have made on not allowing her senior yearbook photo to appear in the yearbook.

    Sturgis is once again speaking out! Ii can not believe they are still going through it. It's crazy," Sturgis added.

    After Copiah County School District officials said "no" to the ACLU demand letter telling them to immediately place Sturgis' senior portrait in the school annual. Ceara first told WLBT last Tuesday the school was refusing to put the picture in the yearbook because she was gay and wearing a tuxedo.

    "I figured I've been going there for 13 years. They would put it in the yearbook, but I guess I was wrong," Sturgis said.

    While Ceara and her mother Veronica Rodriguez are not sure if they will seek legal action, they say their fight continues.

    "I am taking a stand for all the other people who weren't allowed to be in the yearbook for the same situation, and maybe, I can win this," Sturgis added.

    We asked Ceara was it worth the fight, especially if they take legal action. Ligitation could take months or even years and by that time graduation may have come and gone.

    "Well yeah, yeah. I'm standing up for a bunch of people that support me," Sturgis said.

    Ceara's mother agrees with her daughter's decision.

    "To hide how you express yourself is not being true to yourself," said Veronica Rodriguez, mother is Ceara Sturgis.

    Once again, we tried to reach Copiah County school officials, they did not return our telephone calls or our emails.

    I don't know the Female Student Personally, but I am supporting her 100%

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