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Students At Embattled N. Calif. High School Hold First Gay Prom

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Students At Embattled N. Calif. High School Hold First Gay Prom

by Mary Ellen Peterson, 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau

April 14, 2006 - 2:00 pm ET

(Tracy, California) Two teen boys shared a kiss on the dance floor, girls exchanged kisses and everyone agreed that Tracy, California's first LGBT prom was a success.

About 200 people attended the dance at a local high school Thursday night - many of them not gay but there to show their support for LGBT students at West High.

The school's "official prom" allows students to bring same-sex dates but many gay students say they don't feel safe doing so following a series of incidents at the school over the past year.

As the students entered the banquet room, decorated with a Hawaiian theme, they were greeted by state Assemblymember Lloyd Levine the sponsor of a bill strengthening California's anti-discrimination law in schools.

Justin Daley, a senior at West High who is president of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, organized the prom when other members of the group said they felt shut out from the official event because of homophobia at the Northern California school.

Last October the California Department of Education announced it would investigate allegations that the school district failed to protect LGBT students from harassment and bullying at West High. (story)

The Gay-Straight Alliance at West High School went to the state after it said the district had done little to address concerns about harassment.

Even organizing the gay-friendly prom was fought by school officials.

The administration pulled ads by the school's Gay-Straight Alliance for the prom from a daily bulletin for students. Although students have been working for months to organize the event the school said the event actually was being sponsored by Equality California, the state's largest LGBT civil rights group and does not qualify as a West High event.

Daley, who is a director of the Equality California's San Joaquin County chapter, disputed the school's claim.

To add to problems Daley and the GSA faced, members of the Rev. Fred Phelps' Westboro Church in Kansas threatened to picket the event. In the end, the protestors did not show up.

Thursday night the problems were forgotten as the music blared and the students celebrated.

©365Gay.com 2006

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