A Mississippi school district has cancelled next month’s high school prom rather than let a lesbian student attend with her girlfriend.

Policy at the Itawamba County Agricultural High School in northern Mississippi bars same-sex prom dates. Senior Constance McMillen approached the school last month about attending the event with her girlfriend, and was told that they would not be allowed to arrive together and that they might be asked to leave if their presence made other students uncomfortable.

The school also vetoed McMillen’s request to wear a tuxedo to the event.

In their statement announcing the cancellation of the prom, school district officials said they hoped that “private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors,” a sentiment with clear echoes of Southern states’ efforts to avoid desegregation of public schools in the late 1950s.

When federal courts ordered public schools in four Virginia counties integrated in early 1958, Virginia governor James Almond ordered those schools to be closed — rather than have students attend on an integrated basis, he would provide no public education whatsoever.

As in the current Mississippi case, Almond foresaw individual initiative filling the gap, and so they did — private “segregation academies,” funded with state money and individual donations, were created to take in the white students whose schools had been closed. No similar provision was made for educating black students. The closed Virginia schools were re-opened by court order within a few months, though Virginia’s Prince Edward County later shut down its school system for five years rather than integrate.

The ACLU of Mississippi has intervened in this case, saying that “schools that discriminate against lesbian, gay, and bisexual students who want to bring same-sex dates to school dances need to know that by doing so they’re violating established federal law, and we will call them on it.”

In a similar case in Alabama last year, a school initially announced that it would cancel prom rather than allow to attend with her girlfriend, but later reversed its decision under ACLU pressure.

Update | The ACLU is suing the school district for canceling the prom, saying the action violates McMillen’s first amendment rights. They’ve asked a federal judge to order the school to hold the prom as planned.