ACLU takes on gay teen's case over yearbook attire

By Katina Rankin | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The American Civil Liberties Union is taking on the case of a gay high school student whose senior portrait is being denied placement in the yearbook.

It's the first time the Mississippi ACLU has taken on a high school youth gay issue.

"It's a gay rights issue that is a statement, a political statement." A statement, according to ACLU legal director Kristy Bennett, is protected under the constutition. 

Bennett has now taken on high school senior Ceara Sturgis' case to get her senior portrait in the Wesson Attendance Center's school annual.

Ceara's mother, Vernonica Rodriguea says,  "It's a memory for the students." A memory Ceara and her mother are claiming is being denied by principal Ronald Greer -- because she wore a tuxedo.

"You can't punish a woman for not being feminine enough or not wearing feminine clothes," said Bennett. 'Is it the ACLU's position that Wesson school officials actually violated the law?'  "Yes. It is our position that they violated both federal statues as well as U.S. Constitution."

"I want her picture in the yearbook," said Rodriguez.

So Bennett has sent a letter to the Copiah County Schools superintendent, his assistant as well as principal Greer demanding Ceara's picture immediately be placed into the yearbook.

The problem now -- it may be too late! Ceara's mother has been told by school officials the yearbook has already been sent to print.

ACLU officials say either way, the school district has until Friday to respond to their demands. And we tried to call school officials. They did not return our calls.

Bennett says if they don't respond to her letter, the ACLU will file a lawsuit.

"We'll be asking for compensation for the cost of the pictures being taken as well as the emotional stress and mental anxiety they put her through making her go through this process."