A 17 year old female from Boone County, Indiana, is suing her her high school, Lebanon High School, for forbidding her from wearing a tuxedo to prom. She is a lesbian and wants to wear a tuxedo instead of a dress because a dress reflects a sexual identity that she doesn’t identify with or embrace. School district attorney Kent Frandsen stated that the school district has had a long instated policy that only allows male students to wear tuxedos to prom, and that there is no need to change this policy because up until now it has not been challenged. The student was told to either wear a dress or not go to prom.
The Indiana Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Ken Falk argues that the district’s policy violates the US Constitution because “From a First Amendment standpoint, wearing a tuxedo makes an affirmative statement about her own sexuality. Students have free-speech rights.” Furthermore, by only permitting male students to wear tuxedos to prom, the policy violates Title IX law which prohibits gender-based discrimination in schools.
The school district’s policy is so blatantly sexist and homophobic and this case exemplifies institutional/state policing of gender/sexuality norms. The case also addresses the limitations of student expression and how schools and institutions continue to infringe upon student rights and fail to reexamine outdated, discriminatory policies.