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Skepchick Quickies, 4.7

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Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. I had a good laugh at the Vitimin D article when I saw it. How obvious and boneheaded can the author of that article be? Besides, taking too much Vitamin D can damage your kidneys, among other things.

    The story about the fake prom is just heartbreaking. I’ve been following for a few days. I hope the school district gets hauled back into court, but I’m not sure how they’d do that as IANAL.

  2. Read the comments in the fake prom story. There are pictures EVERYWHERE that basically prove that the parents and students conspired. If it weren’t so sad, it’d be hilarious.

    Actually, I think this is kind of great, in a way. Constance is going places, and those homophobic students and teachers are going to be stuck in hick-ville forever.

  3. What I don’t understand is how EVERY student was a part of this conspiracy. How is it that not one high school student thought that maybe it would be the right thing to do to mention the prom date/location- just to tip her off. I know high schoolers are notorious for being mean, but even this seems to be beyond what I’d expect.

  4. Regarding the fake prom: The thing that kills me is reading in the AP story that Constance’s voice cracked while she was telling her story. This hurt her, and that’s what the parents that organized the second prom wanted, and that’s what the kids that went to the second prom should be ashamed of. Most of them won’t though, because their prom wasn’t ruined by the lesbian that they thought wanted to make the prom all about her. They’re wrong. She wanted to have the same high school experience that other kids get to have. It was already bad enough that she had to become a national news story in order to get it, but now she got publicly humiliated on top of it.

  5. @ Displaced Northerner – Welcome to being gay in a small town. It’s not like the movies. You don’t get a funny sidekick. All it takes is one loud bigot, and the rest of the community follows. If you happen to be a teen and that bigot happens to be the principal…well, most of us just hung on in quiet desperation until we could go to college out of state.

  6. This story about the fake prom and the recent stories in the media about bullying are frustrating as we seem to have a double standard in society. If you are an adult and harass someone (call them names, physically assualt them), it is against the law. If you are a teenager it seems to be okay. Likewise with discrimination.

    High School is supposed to help prepare kids for adulthood. Instead it seems to be preparing them to be lawbreaking knuckle draggers. If you want to fight with people, take up boxing, football, or wrestling then when you graduate, join the special forces.

  7. @marilove: @Displaced Northerner: I don’t think the students carry the majority of the blame here. I place it much more on their parents. These are fully-grown adults who paid for and organized the other prom, and not only tacitly approved but encouraged the segregation of kids they simply didn’t like. The students would not have been able to do it without the parents’ support. It’s shameful and disgusting.

  8. @Danarra: Even though I know intellectually that this is the unfortunate reality for many people, it still makes no sense to me- like the idea of institutional segregation- that otherwise decent human beings would be a part of such evil. I just never grew up with that being a reality for me. Growing up, my parents had close gay friends so I never perceived it as something unnatural. I was lucky enough to go to a school that is apparently more tolerant than many because we had several same sex couples at prom and I don’t remember it being a big deal- hell, I went to prom with a girl and no one said anything. I’ve begun to realize that my experience is relatively unique, but I still have trouble seeing this from a bigoted point of view- I don’t understand why people are willing to go along with such evil.

    My SO and I always say this: even if you felt “icky” about same sex marriage, wouldn’t you think about day in the future when your child said, “Mom/Dad, I can’t believe while YOU were alive it was illegal for gay people to be married. What did you do?” I can’t imagine having to say, “I protested. Against it.”

    In a semi-related vein, I’m getting married in MA so I just took a trip up to get my marriage license. The lady at city hall told us when we filled out the form we could pick to be person A or B because there wasn’t a male/female distinction. All I could think was, “I fucking love this state- when do I get to move back?!”

  9. Fuck Fulton, fuck small town politics, fuck Dixiecrats reapplying their disgust at people different than them to the LBGT movement.

    I grew up in one of the larger towns in Mississippi (population 15,000), so it wasn’t quite as bad. The small towns with populations under 5,000 (like Fulton) are the worst. They’re essentially plantations; a couple of rich white landowning families decide how they’re run, and what happens in them.

    The bait and switch prom is pretty goddamn unsurprising to me. It’s exactly the sort of bullshit I’d expect them to pull, after the already huge bullshit of canceling the publicly funded prom in favor of a private one.

    When it was first announced donations had been taken up and an outsider was going to foot the bill for the prom, I knew this was going to happen.

  10. Whatever happened to that big donation made by “secular humanists” to put on the new prom? And seriously, how do you get an ENTIRE SCHOOL full of students to go along with a conspiracy like this without ANY of them spilling the beans to either Constance, a supporter or the media. I’ve never known that many students to keep a secret about ANYTHING.

  11. @FFFearlesss: That fake prom is the one funded by the secular humanists.

    And it’s not hard, there was probably only a few dozen kids at the prom for a school that size. You have to remember that most all of them are going to share their parent’s bigotry.

  12. If there is any bright side to the Prom, it’s that she got to be with a better class of people.

    I tell you, if I had Superman’s powers I’d throw that town into space. If I had Professor Xavier’s mind powers, I’d make them think that they were on fire for the rest of their lives, give them a taste of hell. If I had the Hulk’s powers I’d smash the fuck out of the town. If I had Spider-Man’s powers I’d… I’d… I’d… um… shit… maybe he’s not the best guy for this… I’d… swing around town and maybe web their fat mouths shut or something… but I’d be angry when I did it!

    Grrr!

  13. Re: Vitamin D

    Way to copy the press release there International Business Times.

    My favorite:
    “Dr. Holick, an international expert has studied vitamin D for more than 30 years.”

    He probably has a PhD in philosophy and is an expert in the field of wikipedia research.

    “Dr Holick advices people to take supplements in order to ensure optimal levels of the crucial vitamin in the body.”

    Taking supplements of a fat-soluble vitamin? Nope, don’t see any problems there.

  14. @marilove: Oh, I’m not saying they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. I just want to see as much, if not more, responsibility cast to the adults as well. Kids can be mean, but they can’t write checks.

  15. @Jen: Nope. Equal blame. SOMEONE could have stood up and said something. Constance did, didn’t she? She’s their age, isn’t she? And yet, she knows better. There is no fucking excuse for bigotry. None. The teenagers are just as disgusting as their parents. At that age, they are old enough to fucking know better.

    Yes, this pisses me off. Being a teenager is no excuse for bigotry.

    They deserve all the ridicule they are going to get. They deserve to be punished just as much as their parents. Maybe then they’ll learn that bigotry is not acceptable and that they can’t use excuses (their parents) as a way to hide behind their obvious bigotry.

  16. @marilove: Well, this is where I would pull in @Displaced Northerner‘s follow-up comment – I agree that the kids aren’t as beyond hope as the parents are. I believe that not just slapping them down, and trying to make it clear to them what their parents’ influence has been, might do some good. And I believe that doing good is more important than satisfying our blood lust, figuratively speaking. :)

  17. @Jen: You can’t stop bigotry by being nice and patting them on the head and telling them, “Oh poor children, it’s all your parents fault!” They should take responsibility for their actions and be told exactly why their actions are not acceptable.

  18. @marilove. you’re saying everything I said when I first read the story this morning. The part that gets me is if Constance (and I hope she does) sues the school, those funds will come out of the school’s budget and the teachers are going to have to explain to next year’s students why there’ll be no Prom, Homecoming Dance, Senior Trip, Travel for competitions, Yearbook, etc. because someone wanted to teach the lesbian girl a lesson. One day, horrible people will learn that there’s consequences to horrible behavior.

  19. @marilove: I also don’t think you can stop it by yelling and punishing and never offering compassion and understanding as an example to those that might be able to learn from it. It’s just much more complicated than that.

  20. It’s not a one-size fits all solution. Compassion opens some people’s eyes, yelling gets attention for some people, some respond to logical argument…
    You’ve got to try every method available to get through to them.
    Eventually, the culture – even in small rural towns – will evolve.

  21. @Kimbo Jones: Probably not even that specific. If you’ve ever watched King of the Hill, whatever whiny liberal granola eating hippie is the antagonist of the episode is how Constance will be presented to them. Not as a person, just as a caricature of an outsider.

  22. @Jen: *Shrug* These teenagers knew better. Some of the shit they’ve been saying is vile. And honestly, having been bullied myself and seeing those teens grow up into adults….I can’t say I have much hope for these teens.

  23. I shouldn’t make assumptions about other peoples motives or thoughts. But I’m going to. Those inbred, hatefilled, ignorance approving, cattle fucking, meth using, science challanged, reason denying, child pornagraphying, progress fearing, closeted racist, racoon eating, trailer trash living, deceitful, lying, tea bagging, tea partying, praying for the end of the world, condeming the innocent to torture, fucking, fuckers think they are so clever.

    “Ohhh, look at us, we were able to fool the high shcool lesbian. We are so smart. SMRT smart. Now that confused slut will leave our town and it will go back to being paradise. I know, just know that Jesus will be happy that we ran that horrible sinner out of town. Oh I can’t wait for her to move away. We will have to hold another party when she is gone and takes all the gay with her.”

    There was a conversation along these lines at the other prom when Constance didn’t show up.

    Fuckers.

  24. I hate the way these high school kids acted just as much as everyone else on here. I come from a fairly small town with lots of bigoted people in it as well and I have seen very up close what assholes these people can be- I was the trailer park girl with parents who didn’t believe in going to church and as a consequence I was also picked on. But having grown up, I have realized that EVERYONE deserves a chance to change. We shouldn’t just write them off- I will agree that MOST of these hatefilled kids probably WON’T change, but from personal experience (I know, anecdotes SUCK as evidence) some of them will find the intellectual capacity and the bravery required to leave their idiotic parents’ ideals and values- some might even apologize one day (we can hope). So what I am saying is, the teenagers involved definately deserve punishment for their actions and SHOULD be ridiculed for the way that they have acted, but lets try not to make automatic harsh black-and-white-they-are-evil-scum-of-the-earth judgements about a bunch of kids who were royally screwed over by their parents irrational fears and bigotry.

  25. I would have loved to have mentored a “geeky teen.” Unfortunately, I got matched very poorly, and it was a negative experience.

    That’s something skeptics should talk about more: mentoring.

  26. @Jen: I see no reason not to blame the teenagers and the parents. There’s more than enough blame to go around and no reason why anyone shouldn’t get their fair share.

    On the plus side, I guess it’s likely that they’ll all soon find that there’s more to life than High School and what follows will probably be a better experience for Constance than for the remaining expletive expletive expletive.

  27. @Elyse: Or do something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9j_KtBZUDM

    I mean really, watch that video. I kind of love the WBC now, because they seem to bring people together, which is ironic and AWESOME. I was seriously lolling and lolling during that whole video.

    So this is what we should all do during their graduation. Make sure to wear lots of rainbows, and make out with the same gender as much as possible. And dance. Dance!

  28. I’m going to ignore the Mississippi fuckheads, because they’re not worth my time. Props and luck to Constance, all that.

    However, let’s talk a bit about mentoring a geeky teen. I think the real key is to get them the resources they need and a place in which to work, and most of them will tear it up on their own. One of your main jobs is to simply facilitate, especially if it’s not your area of interest. Learn enough to ask intelligent questions. Help them find resources (have I mentioned that I love the internet?). And make sure they have a safe place to be a geek.

  29. I’ve had some exposure to the A2 milk controversy through family connections. I’m not sure whether it is right or not, but I am confident that it is supported by real science, it is not a ‘crackpot’ theory. The question is whether the real science is convincing.

    The people who are driving force behind A2 milk are scientists for whom this is within their area of expertise.

  30. Wow. These comments are fairly incendiary. I always love reading bigoted screeds that function by classing the out group as bigoted.

    I know this is too little too late but, for the sake of skepticism, I must point out that according to Constance herself this story has been misreported.

    There was no ‘secret prom’. Apparently when the prom was canceled a few students rented a room a local country club. They told her about the party but only extended a very lukewarm invitation:

    “If you want to come its at the country club.”

    She decided not to attend because she knew several of the girls blamed her for the schoolboard’s decision to cancel the prom. The prom she attended was a makeshift event setup after a judge found her rights where violated.

    There is still an enormous amount of malfeasance here but most of seems to be by the school board; The kids involved seem a bit cliquish at worst. The whole narrative involving a student-body-wide conspiracy to send Constance to a ‘fake prom’ seems to be the product of sensationalized reporting.

    It seems to me that the most crucial aspect aspect of critical thinking is theory of mind – avoiding attribution, base rate and correspondence bias not determining why homeopathy is the worlds most absurd proposition; Having canvased this site for over a year, I see no evidence self-identified skeptics really perform better than the general population in this respect.

  31. @Chas999

    Good points you make. Sounds like we all fell for a conspiracy theory which had that funny conspiracy theory smell to it (i.e. how could that many people keep the “secret prom” secret).

    And for what it is worth, I grew up in a small town (~500 people). I am somewhat embarrassed by some of the ignorant attitudes that I harbored as a teenager. I was an insecure kid who wanted to feel tough so I glommed on to various macho stereotypes (e.g. anyone remember Red West’s character in Ba Ba Black Sheep). I was sometimes the bullied and a few times the bully. Bullying an even more pathetic soul made me feel powerful for a brief period, but ultimately it made me feel ashamed for being so cowardly that I had to pick on someone weaker than myself instead of standing up to the people who bullied me (that takes real courage). In any case, the transition from unenlightened hick to enlightened hick didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a gradual and humbling process.

    /BCT

  32. Nooooooooo Constance said she didn’t go because she got the impression she was not wanted.
    She asked if she was invited and the response was “It’s at the country club”

    That’s how I heard the story.

    “It seems to me that the most crucial aspect aspect of critical thinking is theory of mind – avoiding attribution, base rate and correspondence bias not determining why homeopathy is the worlds most absurd proposition; Having canvased this site for over a year, I see no evidence self-identified skeptics really perform better than the general population in this respect.”

    I’m skeptical you have our best interests at heart.

  33. In ten years time Constance will be a successful whatever-she-wants-to-be in the Big City, while her erstwhile hick schoolmates will be stuck in Fulton fucking their cousins/hogs and drinking themselves into their early and well-deserved graves.

  34. @chas999:

    Seems that I have really fucked myself here. I took what Chas999 said on face value and then chastized myself for taking what others said on face value. I did some searching this evening with Google, and have yet to find anything that confirms Chas999’s assertion. Chas999 do you have anything to back up your claim?

    I did find this article which seems to confirm rather than refute the original story:

    http://www.inquisitr.com/69069/constance-mcmillen-fake-prom-confirmed/

    And if this was all about Constance, why did the disabled kids end up at the “fake” prom instead of the “secret” prom? Did the disabled kids willingly chose this as a way of acting in solidarity with Constance, or did the kids organizing the secret prom actively exclude the disabled kids along with Constance?

  35. If I understand the prom story correctly, there technically was no prom. There was just a replacement party at which a handful of school outcasts were present, and then there was another invitation only party at another location where all the other students went (and which the outcasts may or may not have been aware of).

    The actual prom itself was cancelled because at that event they couldn’t refuse Constance from attending since it was publicly funded.

    Essentially, the school officials and parents didn’t redeem themselves with this misguided action, but since it was a privately funded event, they didn’t legally do anything wrong, only morally.

  36. The biggest problem with story (and its main claim) is that students organized a secret prom. This doesn’t seem to be true. In fact the students efforts to organize substitute events were discussed throughout town and in the towns ‘secret’ local newspapers (also in Usa today and the Clarion-Ledger):

    Jay Nichols, a junior at the school, said the dance at the country club will be one of several private proms scattered around Fulton on Friday night.

    Nichols, 17, said students organized the dance at the country club after the parent-sponsored prom was canceled.

    “We are still going to dress up and take pictures and all that stuff,” he said. “The parents have absolutely nothing to do with this anymore.”[1]

    The students were responding to a statement issued on March 10 by the Mississippi school board:

    “Due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events, the Itawamba County School District has decided to not host a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School this year. It is our hope that private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors. However, at this time, we feel
    that it is in the best interest of the Itawamba County School District, after taking into consideration the education, safety and well being of our students, that the Itawamba County School District not host a junior/senior prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.”[2]

    There was no official prom but a parent rented the Fulton County Country Club and this became the defacto unofficial event. It appears most students resolved not to go due to the negative media attention including ms. Mcmillens date. (she took her dad) At least one group succeeded in setting up a separate event 30 miles outside town; This is the group eventually accused of conspiracy, by the apparent source of the story (and crack investigator) Richard Lawson at ‘gawker.com’.[3]

    In the article ‘Did a Mississippi School Stage a Fake Prom for a Lesbian and Her Date?’ richard extrapolates from:

    “it was the worst attended prom since the year after Carrie White totally PMSed all over everyone”

    to

    “The real trouble is that there’s rumored to have been another prom held that night at a different location, one that, word has it, the parents were fully

    aware of, and the school district helped plan. So, basically a bunch of grownups may have staged an elaborate ruse so the gay girl and her gay lesbian

    girlfriend and all their totally homo friends could stand around one place looking like chumps, while the real teens did real things like give birth in the bathroom and rape each other in limos at their own very special real prom.”

    He never offers any evidence but gawker.com quickly locates a Facebook page of one of the girls at the other event. Lawson himself refuses to post them but they quickly spring up all over the internet as proof of his narrative claim of a conspiracy between parents and the school board.

    Oddly, the Facebook pictures of the ‘real prom’ reveal it really wasn’t much of a party. Examining the pics it appears the second gathering didn’t consist of much more than 25 students. ( sites generally use the close-ups of students dancing which look a little busier) I couldn’t find the size of the combined

    junior and senior classes for this high school but unless its only about 40 students most prom goers avoided both events.

    Seriously. That is it. The 200 news articles derived from this basically follow the same pattern; They accept the premise that there was some form of elaborate deception orchestrated by the students and then quote mine the same interview – making it seem as thought all the claims are being backed up by Constance herself.

    It can be hard to call bullshit on something like this, as it can seem like you minimizing bullying, but as far as I can tell there wasn’t a conspiracy or even a ground-swell of homophobia. The best evidence against this is that there is real no evidence for it. Sadly its the media and the school officials who have entered the Twilight Zone.

    http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=20104010342
    http://wcbi.com/article.php?subaction=showfull&id=1268264981&archive=&start_from=&ucat=1,5,41&
    http://gawker.com/5509819/did-a-mississippi-school-stage-a-fake-prom-for-a-lesbian-and-her-date

  37. @chas999:
    I couldn’t find the size of the combined junior and senior classes for this high school but unless its only about 40 students most prom goers avoided both events.

    With a town that size, it wouldn’t surprise me if the classes really were that small. It seems part of your argument hinges on that unknown.

    So three questions remain:
    1. Was this the only other party that was organised apart from the “official” substitute prom party Constance and a handful of other students attended? We hear nothing of any other parties that night.

    2. Did the students really pull this off all on their own, or did a bunch of intolerant parents decide to lead by bad example so their kids didn’t have to miss their prom in order to make a big show of their bigotry? For starters, I don’t think the kids rented the venue, some parent did.

    3. Does the fact Constance might have known about this other party make that much of a difference? In fact, does the fact she may have decided not to attend the “secret” prom in order not to stir the shit any further not clearly show that she’s the bigger person in all this?

    The core of the story remains the same whether or not this really was a big conspiracy, which is that almost the entire senior year decided they’d rather not be at a party where one single lesbian girl wanted to bring her girlfriend.

    I don’t suppose the fact that all of this occured around April 1st helps any, as it does sound a bit like an elaborate belated april fools joke on the outcast. In fact, somebody probably might have thought it made for a good joke.

  38. @chas999:
    OK, outside of the issue of the alternate prom I take serious issue with the idea that there was no homophobia involved. The quotes from the “Constance quit your cryn'” facebook group (before they were deleted) were clearly homophobic (see pharyngula). The quotes from facebook by parents were also clearly homophobic. Hell, the best quote the Clarion could find in that same article is the hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner standby of homophobic jackasses everywhere.

    Also the school board only got involved after the school had to be taken to court so that Constance could bring her date to prom so clearly at least the school principal was being ridiculous as well.

    The county itself has policy that prom dates must be of different sexes (http://www.rightpundits.com/?p=5832)…

    Finally, canceling the official prom and holding “alternate proms” in the south is a proud tradition from segregationist days which still goes on today (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24prom-t.html?_r=1).

    So regardless of this particular aspect of the story I personally do not buy your argument that the students were being “a bit churlish” and that the main problem is a school board acting in isolation and a press that’s out of control.

    Now with regard to the secrecy of the other alternate prom. You may be right although I’m not convinced. So far I see one article that supports your view in general although I still don’t see any evidence that “according to Constance herself this story has been misreported.” That would be much more convincing and I would love to read it.

    The article that you do quote saying there will be a number of parties doesn’t necessarily contradict the narrative.
    1)prom cancelled
    2)multiple parties planned
    3)prom now officially at the country club where multiple disabled students and the lesbians went.
    4)A number of other people told the to skip out on the prom a go to another without sharing that information with Constance and others. There seems reasonable reason to think this is what they hand in mind if this is an actual quote(http://www.inquisitr.com/69069/constance-mcmillen-fake-prom-confirmed/)

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