In January, Elizabeth Lord and her wife found out that their daughter, a ninth-grader at Forbes Road Junior Senior High School, was told she could not bring a same-sex friend to a school dance.
The school is part of the 500-student Forbes Road School District of Fulton County, about 40 miles west of Shippensburg.
Equality Pennsylvania and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania warned the district that it was violating students’ constitutional rights, and the school this week agreed to change its policy to allow students to bring any date of their choice, regardless of sex.
“We had issues with this last year and it began as a completely innocent thing,” Lord said. “My daughter wanted to take a friend to the dance last year to have a good time. She wasn’t dating anyone at the time and it blew up into this huge ordeal.”
Lord, whose daughter is an LGBT ally, said the district was originally going to make an exception for Lord’s daughter for the next dance this past January but, when the district hired a new superintendent, the attitude quickly changed.
Lord’s wife learned about the district’s intended action when she turned in mandatory forms for students who wished to bring a student from another school district to a school dance.
“That’s when we realized what was going on,” Lord said. “There were a lot of requests on the desk that were denied.”
Lord said she is unfamiliar with the school’s superintendent and that her daughter has never faced any harassment from other students or staff about her LGBT ally status.
She said the area, however, is fairly traditional and conservative.
Lord contacted Equality PA at the beginning of the year to enlist the organization’s help in the situation.
Equality PA executive director Ted Martin said he warned Lord about the attention she and her family could get from going public with the situation but, when the family agreed to move forward, Equality PA joined with ACLU to demand the district rescind its policy or face legal action.
“We do a lot of work with ACLU and brought them into the equation and worked together,” Martin said. “The school board was fairly cooperative and, once the situation was pointed out to them and once they understood the implications, they changed it.”
Martin said situations such as this and the recent incident at Chambersburg Area School District — which banned the formation of a gay-straight alliance — show educational institutions that people are paying attention to what they do.
“I think for students who are frustrated about being turned aside in high school or harassed can see that something right does work out in the end,” Martin said.
Lord said she’s proud that her daughter stood her ground.
“From the beginning, she wanted to stand up for herself,” Lord said. “She never backed down from it and she knew we would support her.”