Jacqueline Duty in her prom dress (Photo: Lexington Herald-Leader).
A high-school senior who was barred from her prom because she showed up wearing a self-designed sequined dress patterned after the Confederate flag has filed suit, claiming her First Amendment rights were violated.
Jacqueline Duty came to the Russell High School prom May 1 wearing the dress and was told to leave, according to a report in the Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader.
School officials had gotten wind that she would wear the gown and, her lawyers say, wouldn’t even let her leave her vehicle.
“Her only dance for her senior prom was on the sidewalk to a song playing on the radio,” Earl-Ray Neal, her lawyer, told the local paper.
Duty is suing not only on First Amendment grounds, but for defamation, false imprisonment and assault. The suit seeks damages in excess of $50,000.
Showing a news conference the controversial dress on Monday, Duty defended her actions.
“I wanted to show part of my Southern heritage,” she said. The Herald-Leader reports she had worked on the dress’ design for four years and that she said it had always been her dream to wear a Confederate-themed dress to her senior prom.
While Duty acknowledges some people are offended by the Confederate flag, she says that’s no reason to bar her from expressing herself.
“Everyone has their own opinion,” she said. “But that’s not mine. I’m proud of where I came from and my background.”
According to the report, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have agreed to help pay some of Duty’s legal costs.
Duty, 19, who now attends Shawnee State University in Ohio, says the principal warned her not to wear the dress, but she didn’t have another one available. She decided to go to the prom anyway in hopes officials would change their minds.
The lawsuit claims the principal, Sean Howard, and two police officers met Duty outside the school.
“Howard intimidated (Duty) by physically striking the vehicle in which she was sitting,” the lawsuit said.
Duty says she was surprised by the tough stance taken against her.
“We’ve all worn Confederate flags to school before,” she told the paper.
Her lawyer said Duty lost many scholarships because she was portrayed as a racist after the incident.