Melissa Pressley is a fifth-grader at St. James, a private school in the fashionable Hancock Park area a few miles west of downtown Los Angles. Most, if not all, of her white classmates have been invited to participate in the Ebell Cotillion, a branch of the Los Angeles Cotillion.
No invitation arrived for Melissa, who is 10. She will miss the classes in ballroom dancing, etiquette and social graces, which are held after school. Most of her classmates are white. Melissa is black. Her parents believe that this alone explains the fact that she was not invited.
Cotillion organizers may have a legal right to decide who learns ballroom dancing and social graces. But they have exercised that right at a terrible cost to Melissa. Rejection hurts at any age. The pain is worse when it is inflicted on grounds that cannot be changed, no matter how hard a 10-year-old might try.
Melissa's parents say that she met the cotillion's standards for grades and conduct. The only explanation that she and her parents received was that she was "overlooked" in the invitation process. A likely story, in view of the fact that Christopher Sneed, another black student, was rejected last year.