Missouri district revises prom policy on same-sex dates

ST. LOUIS — A southern Missouri school district has rescinded a policy that prohibited same-sex couples from attending prom, a day after a national anti-discrimination group threatened to sue.

Scott County Central School District superintendent Alvin McFerren told The Associated Press on Friday that the school board agreed to revise a district handbook policy that had been interpreted to prohibit same-sex dates. McFerren said the policy was adopted 10-15 years ago for an innocent reason and was never meant to discriminate.

The handbook policy stated that students "will be permitted to invite one guest, girls invite boys and boys invite girls."

McFerren said the line was simply aimed at trying to stop students from cheating on the entry cost of prom and other dances — by going as a "couple," they were saving a few bucks since the couples' rate was less expensive than two individual fees.

"When I found out the real, true, innocent reason, we wanted to get that kind of thing corrected," McFerren said.

The tiny district, with about 330 students, is in Sikeston, about 130 miles south of St. Louis. It has one elementary school and one high school.

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Thursday threatened legal action on behalf of Stacy Dawson, a male student who wanted to attend prom with his boyfriend. McFerren said Dawson can now attend with whomever he chooses.

SPLC attorney Alesdair Ittelson said Friday that the organization had not yet spoken with McFerren to confirm the policy change.

"If it is indeed true that the policy has been permanently changed, it represents a big step forward for LGBT students in a part of the country that frequently lacks community support for students like Stacy," Ittelson said. "We applaud Stacy's bravery in standing up for his rights."