Action: Show your support for Ceara

Published on October 26 2009 18 Comments
Action: Show your support for Ceara

A Wesson student is fighting back after being excluded from her high school yearbook for wearing men’s clothing in her class photo. While the ACLU seeks to handle the legal aspects, our community can show our support by contacting Copiah County Schools Superintendent Ricky Clopton and CC Ronald Greer, the principal of Wesson Attendance Center.

Please ensure your message is respectful. Our goal is to help Ceara… Not cause anger or disgust.

Sample Letter

Dear Mr. Clopton:

Your decision to uphold Principal Greer’s decision to intervene in the publication of Ceara Sturgis’ yearbook photograph based on a personal “conviction,” a conviction without any objective policy rationale, is inconsistent with the values of the Copiah County School District, whose stated mission is to provide “learning opportunities that will enable students to become productive and well-adjusted citizens in an ever-changing society.” Indeed, it is difficult to see his exercise of power as anything other than a simple case of bullying.

Women can run for president, serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and preside over our nation’s most prestigious universities. And yes, they can even wear tuxedos.

Please address this injustice, and allow Ceara Sturgis’ photograph to be published in the 2009 Wesson Attendance Center high school yearbook.

Respectfully,

____________

Contact info:

Principal Ronald Greer
rdgreer@copiah.k12.ms.us

Superintendent Ricky Clopton
rclopton@copiah.k12.ms.us

18 thoughts on “Action: Show your support for Ceara

  1. Dear Mr. Clopton and Mr. Greer,

    I’m sure you did not mean to subject a child to this painful situation, but now you have. It would be the better part of valor to just allow the yearbook photo to run.

    I graduated from high school in the early 1970s and we didn’t wear drapes and tuxes, but I can assure you that there were plenty of girls wearing jeans and t-shirts instead of dresses in their photos or boys wearing less than macho clothes – and nobody thought twice about it.

    Just because you had “costumes” assigned for the yearbook does not give your school district new powers to deny civili rights, which is what this is. Why did you even insert yourself into this situation? I’m sure you have second thoughts now.

    It was a very small deal, which you have made into a very big deal. The only thing that matters, beyond the national issue of civil rights of course, is how you are treating a child in your care. Do you want to scar this young woman for life? Let it go. Spiritually, that’s what you should do. Approach this from that feeling and you will feel very good about changing your mind.

    Sometimes, rules and committees lead us down the wrong path. Just publicly saying that and asking the teenager to please forget this happened and that you are happy to have her in your school should do much to heal all wounds, on all sides.

    I hope you can come together on this and heal your school.

    My best hopes for your kindness,

    Lorna

  2. Dear Mr. Clopton:

    Please address the injustice being done to Ceara Sturgis. This seems to be a case of bullying rather than fostering personal growth and education. After all, it is her Sr. portrait not yours or the school district’s. It seems you are imposing your will based not on a rule or policy but strictly on your own prejudice and discomfort.
    Do the right thing. Let the portrait appear without anymore strife.

    Sincerely,

    deb holt

  3. It is very important that we allow our youth to express who they are. Please…. Mississippi/Copiah School System, get with the program, it is time to stop discrimination.

  4. Dear Mr. Clopton,
    Regardless of personal conviction, your decision to exclude Ceara Sturgis from your yearbook was wrong. Her choice to wear a tuxedo rather than a drape is no different than choosing to play one sport over another, or take one class over another. No harm or disruption was being caused until your refusal to include her picture in the yearbook. I hope that you will reconsider your decision and allow Ceara to be included in her senior yearbook. This can be turned into a positive incident, or it can continue to bring a bad name to you, your school district, and Mississippi as a whole. Please make the right decision.

    Respectfully,
    Rosalyn Lee

  5. Dear Mr. Clopton:

    Your decision to uphold Principal Greer’s decision to intervene in the publication of Ceara Sturgis’ yearbook photograph based on a personal “conviction,” a conviction without any objective policy rationale, is inconsistent with the values of the Copiah County School District, whose stated mission is to provide “learning opportunities that will enable students to become productive and well-adjusted citizens in an ever-changing society.” Indeed, it is difficult to see his exercise of power as anything other than a simple case of bullying.

    Women can run for president, serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and preside over our nation’s most prestigious universities. And yes, they can even wear tuxedos.

    Please address this injustice, and allow Ceara Sturgis’ photograph to be published in the 2009 Wesson Attendance Center high school yearbook.

    Respectfully,

    Jennifer B. Hazelton

  6. Dear Mr. Clopton and Mr. Greer:

    As a high school student, I can account for the importance of expression as a young adult. In our mid- to late-teen years, we are all trying to figure out who we are and where we fit in the world. Your school district has effectively told Ceara Sturgis that who she is, based on how she expresses herself, is unacceptable. You have told her that she does not have a place in her very own school, a place where she has spent so much time developing as a person. These actions are inconsistent with the mission of the Copiah County School District, which is to provide “learning opportunities that will enable students to become productive and well-adjusted citizens in an ever-changing society.” This blatant rejection of harmless personal expression, a right which belongs to every American citizen, seems to be nothing more than an act of bullying, whether that was the intention or not.

    I stand behind Ceara Sturgis, and her personal expression, and ask you to allow Ceara’s photo, tux and all, to be published in the 2009 Wesson Attendance Center high school yearbook.

    Very respectfully,

    Kaitlyn Barnes

    Senior at Murrah High School, Jackson

  7. Dear Mr. Clopton,

    I can accept the perspective that Mr. Greer believes he is protecting his students and the culture of his school. However, students are only safe in a school environment that is respectful of all its members. As educators with responsibility to all the students in each school, it is important to communicate to everyone that intolerance is unacceptable. When officials take up the mantle of intolerance, it makes it legitimate for others. Please take the position that a photograph of every student, unless a violation of public and common standards of decency, belongs in the year book.

  8. Dear Mr. Clopton,

    I know that you think you are somehow protecting the image and well-being of your school and your students but I also think that you are in a very bad position and you have just elevated this student to a hero or martyr status… and who does not love to support someone who has been wronged in such a way?! Unfortunately you are exhibiting the same type of narrow minded bigotism that allowed school officials and political officials to try to keep black students from attending “white” schools… And even people who may not have been supportive of the gay lifestyle previously are lining up to support this student’s rights… As an educator you should know that such actions only give a strong voice to the very thing you are trying to stamp out…

    This student did not make a random decision about her senior portait… her decision was in keeping with her beliefs that she has publicly held day in and day out under your watchful eye as she walked the halls of your school… you did not address it then because you knew that you did not have the authority to address how a student wishes to dress… WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FORBID HER FROM WEARING ‘MEN’s CLOTHES’ NOW?

    You don’t… If she wanted to wear something other than a “drape” or a “tux” you might be able to make a stand… but the “tux” is a school approved garment…

    You cannot win this fight… but you look good to those who share your views… and the ‘Gay rights’ organizations have a new poster child… I hope it worth the cost of the battle!

  9. Dear Mr. Greer and Mr. Clopton:

    It is a shame that in today’s world we are still subjecting our youth to such bigotry and pain that you have chose to subject Ms. Ceara Sturgis to by refusing to post her senior portrait in your school’s yearbook.

    You and your faculty and staff have been deemed as appropriate mentors, role-models, and teachers for the children and young adults of the state of Mississippi. Knowing that you are willing to “bully” one of these young adults that have been trusted to your care is unacceptable. Do we really want our children to be taught and mentored by people that are only showing them how to hate?

    I know that you have received many emails regarding your “personal convictions” and I am sure that all of these emails are being deleted as they come in, however I would like to also take a moment to remind you of the guidelines set forth for you by the Mississippi Department of Education regarding your personal opinions on matters involving the school. I have taken some time to make bold and underline what I find to be the most important statements in the follow excerpt from what is expected of you as school “officials”. The state Department of Education’s Employee Policy & Procedure manual states:

    “As defined by Section 25-4-103 of the Mississippi Code 1972 Annotated, all employees of the Department of Education are public servants employed and compensated by the State of Mississippi. A high degree of public trust has been placed on each position and in each employee. All employees should be mindful of this trust and should conduct themselves with professionalism and in such a manner as to reflect this trust. Employees must avoid all actual or potential conflicts between their public responsibilities and duties and their private affairs. Every effort should be undertaken to minimize even the appearance of any such conflict.”

    To treat any Mississippian, or human being for that matter, the way that you are treating Ms. Sturgis is clearly a conflict to the above mentioned trust that has been bestowed upon you by this state, the parents, and the children of this state. Please make the right decision and allow Ceara Sturgis’ picture to be published in your school’s yearbook. Make the right decision and show us that we are putting our trust and our children in correct hands on a daily basis.

    Respectfully,

    Jared L. Surrette

    A very concerned Mississippi resident

  10. I cannot believe this is going on. This is so so wrong. Please do not let your personal beliefs interfere with someone else’s life. This young lady has worked so hard and her choice of clothing should not matter for a senior picture. I admire her. My daughter is 14 and a lesbian and I had to take her completely out of school and homeschool her because of the ridicule from students and staff. What a shame. Mississippi should be further along than this. Let the girl enjoy her senior year because she has that right…

  11. Clothing has nothing to do with the person inside a child. We all have an outer and an inner persona. Let us all express those feelings freely.
    Mary Marro

  12. To Whom it May Concern,

    CONCERN? Wait, this really does not concern any of us, This is a right that ALL of us have! Let me start over…..

    Idiots who are shaping our children futures…..

    Do you remember the good old days when girls wore dresses and guy wore jeans to school? Everyone would go to sock hops on Saturday night and mama would be home getting the roast ready that everyone would sit down and eat after Church on Sunday. Dad would be out back studing the Bible lesson he had to teach to the youngsters the next morning. Oh what a lovely life it was then!

    Now however we have to worry about Drugs, Violence, and Just plain MEANNESS while watching our kids get on the bus in the morning. AND YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT THIS? Really? I have been through Wesson a couple of times and I must say that there is not much there. But I would have figured they would have let someone with more sense than let people like you run the school?

    How many of your students are dropping out, getting pregnant, or failing school? And you are worried about a girl wanting to wear something that is acceptable in her Senior Portrait? I never understood Senior portraits, why do they ask the girls to wear a drape? A drape that actually shows more than you would allow us to wear on a normal school day?

    I do however want to ask you a few questions

    1 – How would you react if you found out that a child of yours was gay/lesbian? Would you cut them out of you life?

    2 – Is this how you would like your career defined? You will always be known as the guy that lost

    3 – Do you think that the county or state will fight this? ACTUALLY spend money on this? No – they hear ACLU and will buckle!

    I DO realize that we are in the Bible belt but the more educated people get the more we realize that we have to be accepting of all people, cultures, and beliefs….. Just as you would want them to accept yours…..

    Proud Mother in Rankin County

    Laurie Williams

  13. Dear Mr. Greer and Mr. Clopton,

    It saddens me to hear of yet another case in the south in which a student is subjected to harassment based simply upon clothing. There is no obscenity nor embarassment here, simply gender expression. I’ve only seen Ceara’s picture, but I see nothing there that should exclude in from a high school year book.

    I just missed the days when girls had to kneel on the floor to make sure their dresses were long enough. I hope we are not seeing a return to those days of ardent sexism. Between the reaction of your administration, and that of North Cobb High School in Georgia recently, though, I am concerned.

    Instead of passing judgement, shouldn’t you instead be proud one of your students has enough self-awareness and confidence to dress in a manner that not only reflects their self-image, but does so in a tasteful manner? That, to me, speaks well of her home life and her school life. It should be celebrated when our young people know who they are.

    Regards,
    T.M. Ricker

  14. Dear Mr. Greer and Mr. Clopton,

    High School is one of the most important periods in our children’s lives, During this time, they are moving on from relating to the world in terms of being their immediate surroundings & in being their friends & family to involving their community at large, the country, and the whole of society. Part of the development in high school and in many cases even beginning in junior high school, students begin to understand who they are sexually, culturally, etc. For example, a female student may become aware of her right to not be treated differently by male students as she begins to develop during puberty. A Latino or African America child may develop a since of cultural pride while studying Latino or African culture at home or at school and decide to wear some representation of that for a class picture. Like the female student, a gay student may develop a since of pride and an understanding that, they have a right not to be discriminated against, abuse, or otherwise mistreated by classmates or society as they begin to understand their sexuality. It can be a challenging and emotional time for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth as, not all of their friends and or family will be excepting or understanding. So, when school officials do things like, not allowing queer youth to wear opposite gender clothes for class pictures, it can only add to the since of nonacceptance, and can even contribute to increased harassment, and abuse when, it comes to light that, these students were turned down from wearing their tux, etc.

  15. Dear Mr. Clopton:

    We the Parents, Friends, and Family of Lesbians and Gays would like to express our concern for your decision to uphold Principal Greer’s decision to not allow Ceara Sturgis’ photo to be placed in the yearbook. It seems this is a right of passage that many thousands of students get to experience in their life. Ceara has attended school and made it to her senior year. A yearbook photo is celebrating and recognizing her achievement to get to this point. Why is there such a problem with her wearing a tuxedo in her picture?

    Your decision to uphold Principal Greer’s decision to intervene in the publication of Ceara Sturgis’ yearbook photograph based on a personal “conviction,” a conviction without any objective policy rationale, is inconsistent with the values of the Copiah County School District, whose stated mission is to provide “learning opportunities that will enable students to become productive and well-adjusted citizens in an ever-changing society.” Indeed, it is difficult to see his exercise of power as anything other than a simple case of bullying.

    It seems with the many issues we face today such as economic, poverty, teen age pregnancy, bullying, drop out rates, that our concern for a girl wearing a tuxedo in her picture should be of little value. This is how she wants to be remembered, as the person she truly is and not some made up person wearing a dress or feminine clothes to conform to your standards. Women can run for president, serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and preside over our nation’s most prestigious universities. And yes, they can even wear tuxedos. Please address this injustice, and allow Ceara Sturgis’ photograph to be published in the 2009 Wesson Attendance Center high school yearbook.

    Respectfully,

    PFLAG-Laurel, MS

  16. I think it is a sin and a shame that we have laws that give us inalible only when higer “authorities” tell us we can’t be ourselves.
    Does the principal allow females to wear beads in there hair,colored hair. Citizens of the principal remember _YOU ARE THEIR boss not the other way around!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Dear Mr. Clopton and Mr. Greer,

    I’m writing to ask that you reconsider your ruling on the yearbook photo of Ceara Sturgis.

    I can certainly understand that you want yearbook photos to be dignified and proper. Were Ms. Sturgis to be photographed in a provocative manner (say, a showgirl costume, or without drapes) I would understand your decision to block the photo.

    However, when a young woman chooses the path of wearing clothing that is modest, orderly, and respectful of the institution, I fail to see the difficulty. Yes, a tuxedo is more typically clothing of a man, but many women have worn them in dignified, even iconic roles.

    Also, I understand that from your point of view, the photo is provocative, in the sense of provoking comment. I suggest to you that the best way to deal with such things is not to draw attention to them; by making an issue of the photo, you’ve drawn national attention to a matter that you had hoped not even to appear in a school yearbook. Now it’s all over the Internet, and probably People Magazine is next.

    Please reconsider. The young woman has chosen to express herself in a harmless manner. You may disagree with her choice, but is making a national issue of it really going to accomplish your desired end? By stepping back, you will make this a non-news item, and really, that’s what it is.

    Sincerely yours,

    Rabbi Ruth Adar

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