Caera Sturgis, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Wesson Attendance Center in Mississippi for excluding her name and photo from the senior year book after she chose to wear a tuxedo in her portrait. Sturgis attended the school from Kindergarten through high school, had a 3.9 grade point average, and participated in an array of extracurricular activities. When Sturgis' portrait was rejected by the school because of the tuxedo, school officials insisted that it was "school policy" for female students to wear a drape for their senior portraits, according to the Associated Press . The school also reportedly ignored ACLU attempts to negotiate in October 2009.
Bear Atwood, the interim Legal Director for the ACLU said in an ACLU Press Release, "This should never have been an issue. Title IX and the Constitution prohibit school officials from forcing students to conform to gender stereotypes. Ceara should not have been expected to compromise her everyday appearance and identity for her senior portrait. The school's actions are discriminatory, unlawful and mean-spirited."
Also in the ACLU press release, Sturgis said, "I went to school with my classmates my whole life, and it hurts that I'm not included in my senior yearbook as part of my graduating class." She continued, "I never thought that my school would punish me just for being who I am."
The ACLU recently represented another Mississippi teen, Constance McMillen, whose school banned same-sex partners at prom and then cancelled the prom. In April, McMillen was invited to a decoy prom in order to prevent her from attending a separate prom parents had organized. The McMillen case was settled out of court in July.