Oh you’ve got to be kidding: Itawamba Agricultural High School, which wouldn’t let Constance McMillen bring her girlfriend to the prom, has a history of anti-LGBT policies. Evidenced when, this year, it suspended Juin Baize, who came to school for one whole day before being kicked out for wearing women’s clothing.
Even Constance remember Baize’s short-lived stay.
“People were talking about him all day, trying to get a look at him,” said McMillen. “It was insane, it was ridiculous, it made me so mad. They said he was causing a distraction with what he was wearing but it was a half day of school and people didn’t have time to get used to him.” The other students wouldn’t be given a chance to get used to him: the next time Baize came to school, according Kristy Bennett, legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi, Baize was given a suspension notice and sent home. When Juin returned to school after his first suspension, he was suspended again.
“Juin’s case was a situation where a transgender student wanted to attend school dressed in feminine clothing,” said Bennett, “and the school district would not even let him attend school.” The reasons for a student’s suspension are supposed to be noted on the suspension form, according to Bennett, but that part of Baize’s suspension notice was left blank. So the ACLU sent a letter to the school on Baize’s behalf asking the school administration for the reasoning behind his suspension—information the ACLU would need in order to challenge Baize’s suspension in court. “But the school would not talk to us about the situation,” said Bennett.
And of course, there’s a hero mom behind the scenes.
Baize’s appearance and the fact that he, unlike Constance McMillen, was perceived as a trouble-making outsider made living in Fulton increasingly impossible. Beverly Baize couldn’t find work because, she believes, Fulton is a small town and people disapproved of her son. Juin was harassed when he left the house, according to Beverly Baize, so she stopped letting him go out alone and then stopped letting him go out at all.
“I’m so afraid for him,” Bertsinger told me last week. “I support him. I buy him the clothing to wear as a female. I just want him to be safe.”
Our immediate reaction to a story like this? Fire the administrators.
But that seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it? To infringe on the livelihood of these academia professionals just for discriminating against a lesbian and a transgender student? Oh, on second thought: Fire the administrators.