Saturday, May 14, 2005

Student ticketed for wearing prom dress to fight back - BELOIT DAILY NEWS

Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2005 - 01:53:17 am CDT

One Wisconsin teenager who had a prom night he'll never forget is fighting a disorderly conduct ticket issued by police after he wore a black, spaghetti-strap dress and blond wig to the event.
"The only thing that Mr. Lofy did wrong was wearing a purse that didn't match the dress and open-toed shoes before Memorial Day," said Madison lawyer Erik Guenther, who will represent Kerry Lofy. "There's just no rational basis for the citation and the school district in telling him beforehand that he couldn't do it."

The senior at Badger High School in Lake Geneva will plead not guilty and ask the city to dismiss the ticket, which carries a fine of $249, Guenther said.

Guenther said he would also advise Lofy, 18, to file a lawsuit against the school for violating his first amendment rights to free expression by telling him he couldn't wear a dress and disciplining him for doing so.

Lofy was suspended for three days this week and ordered to miss his final track meet after wearing the dress to the May 7 prom and dancing in a sexually provocative manner, including lying on another student on the dance floor, school officials and police say.

Lofy says he is not gay but went to the prom with a gay friend who did not have a date. He had been warned by school authorities not to wear the dress. He was turned away at the door when he showed up in the dress, blue earrings, platform sandals and a necklace, and carrying a purse.

He returned an hour later in a leisure suit and was allowed to enter. During a risque dance routine that caught the attention of the 400 people there, the 6-foot, 185-pound Lofy ripped off his clothes to reveal the dress, according to a police report.

He was escorted from the building by a police officer and served with the ticket when he showed up for school Monday.

Lake Geneva school district administrator Jim Gottinger said Friday he was confident that the school's dress code and rules for prom were appropriate and would be upheld in court.

He said most of the discipline was related to Lofy's behavior at the event, and his insubordination for ignoring warnings about appropriate attire.

Gottinger refused to issue an apology, which Guenther demanded.

"I don't see that we were in the wrong," he said. "We think the attire for the prom is a formal event, and he not only wore a dress but a blond wig as well."

Lofy said he wore the outfit after researching the first amendment and concluding, "I'm going to take a stand. They can't say what I can or cannot wear, especially at a dance."

Lofy said his conference track meet was postponed on Friday and rescheduled for next week and his status for the meet is unclear. "It's the most important one of the year," said Lofy, who does the pole vault.

Lofy, who plans to go to Colorado Mountain College in the fall and major in ski hill management, had indicated he wanted to fight the discipline but said he could not afford an attorney.

Guenther, a criminal defense and constitutional law attorney, said his Madison law firm, Hurley, Burish & Milliken, S.C., volunteered to represent him free of charge.

"This is a $250 ticket but if you don't protect the fringes of free speech the next action is at your front door," he said. "These acts cannot be tolerated."

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