Indiana junior prompts prom attire policy change

April 24, 2009 3:25:21 PM PDT
A northwest Indiana high school has changed its policy on prom attire. An openly gay 17-year-old junior was told by the principal she could not wear a tuxedo instead of a dress. Her mother took the matter to the school board Thursday night. Tina Gomez-Ferrell and her husband Tom say they are very supportive of their daughter, Hillary. After Thursday night's board meeting, the school told Hillary and her parents she could wear a tuxedo.

"I guess I felt discriminated against. I thought it was pretty dumb that I couldn't wear what I wanted to wear," Hillary said.

Her mom says although she is allowed to wear a tux, another issue has presented itself.

"She can go to the prom in a tuxedo as long as she has enough credits to go as a junior. I was told this morning that she doesn't have enough credits as a junior to go to the prom. So although they did say she would be allowed to wear a tuxedo, now there will be a credit issue," Tina said.

"At this point, it's fine if the girl wants to rent a tux and in the guidelines it just says former attire. It doesn't specify dresses for the girls," Theresa Mayerik, a school administrator, said.

The school principal declined to comment, but school board president Anna Mamala said "I believe it was very courageous of Mrs. Gomez-Ferrell to speak at last night's meeting publicly about her daughter, and I absolutely support Hillary wearing a tux to the prom. The school board should be sensitive to gender issues."

Her father was also pleased with the result.

"I feel better that it has been resolved. I feel good that the girls that did want to go this year that will be allowed to go, the few girls that wanted to wear tuxedos will be allowed to go and be comfortable at their prom," Tom said. "The original issue was the principal imposing her will and her rules on a student body which I didn't believe was fair for whatever reason--whether it was the gender reason or a medical reason."

"I wanted to go to prom really bad but I was going to be real uncomfortable wearing a dress, and I don't have to. Yeah, I feel like I won," Hillary said.

Hillary's parents are still trying to make arrangements so that she can go to the prom by working out her credit hour issues. Hillary says her classmates are supportive and she is glad other gay students can now go to the prom wearing the formal attire they prefer. Mother and daughter also added that now they want to become activists for the gay community.


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