Talk:2010 Itawamba County School District prom controversy

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Link bin[edit]

"Fake" Prom?[edit]

The article references two "private proms" held on the same night in the county. One is the private prom the lesbian students attended, the other is a private "dance" or "prom" or "birthday party" held the same night, which the rest of the seniors chose to attend. I'm wondering why the article needs to call the second event, the one in Evergreen, a "prom" when it was not sanctioned by any school, was apparently not announced in advance, was a privately sponsored event, and to which McMillan was apparently not invited. I don't think this non-neutral language is permissible under guidelines when it favors a specific interpretation of this controversy, namely that by holding another private event on the same night ("the prom" according to the article) somehow this makes the other event, a "fake prom". For our purposes, references to both "proms" held last week should be called "events" or "dances" or something else rather than the legally-loaded word "proms", that way the article can retain neutrality until the courts sort this out. I intend to change it to "Alternative Prom". (This was cross-posted by me on the Itawamba County School Board article's talk page.) {text modified by Geogene: spelling, soapbox, civility} Geogene (talk) 00:30, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Call it whatever you want but the students themselves called the "private party" a prom, on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and there is verifiable proof of this. So the section was fine like it was, including the title. (talk) 01:00, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Your "verifiable proof" is original research. As for the sources, blogs cannot be used as sources except under highly specific circumstances, ie, the blog owner is a known expert. I'm afraid that doesn't apply here.Geogene (talk) 17:24, 12 April 2010 (UTC) Geogene (talk) 17:26, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Geogene, as someone has independently researched this (though I know our article here will need to rely on published sources), I will note that there's been no official determination of whether the secret prom was truly private or not. I do know it took the theme and decorations intended for the official school prom, and that sheriff's deputies provided security for it. News sources have called the "private party" a "prom", so I think the word prom can be used as a descriptor with explanation as needed. Saying "the complainant got their prom" is a view I've only seen espoused by a very small group of folks located near Fulton, and is unlikely to represent the view reported in the press or the consensus of what wiki editors think is appropriate. How close are you to this case?--Milowent (talk) 17:40, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Also, I don't have a problem with the use of the term "alternative prom," though that verbiage is going to make some laugh because the "alternative prom" term has been used sometimes to describe a prom open to gays and other groups.--Milowent (talk) 17:44, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Milowent: That the complainants "got their prom" is one valid point of view. That the complainants got a "fake prom" is another valid point of view. I am of the first opinion, however the article should not be written to favor one point of view or another. This is why I am opposed to calling one event or the other a "fake prom". If you do not like my suggestion of calling it an "alternative prom", you may call it something else as long as it ?is from a neutral POV. (Edit: sorry, I often forget to sign.) Geogene (talk) 17:56, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Also, "fake prom" is a direct quotation of the complainant, as represented by sources already in the article. If it must be used, then it should be in quotation marks, and it should be identified as a quote. Geogene (talk) 22:27, 23 April 2010 (UTC)

What quotation? Kittybrewster 22:34, 23 April 2010 (UTC)
Check source [13]. "McMillan:I was sent to fake prom". It may not be a "direct" quotation after all, but the source also places "fake" in quotation marks in the body of the article. To be fair, the Toronto Sun reference also uses the phrase but without quotation marks. Either way it's a pejorative term the article would be better off without. If we have to show bias, I prefer the ACLU term "Decoy Prom", as used in their 21 April press release. It sounds more encyclopedic, and better explains what the ACLU claims was done to their client intentionally. Geogene (talk) 00:15, 24 April 2010 (UTC)

¶ My question is about the other 5 students at the same prom with McMillen - two of them were mentally impaired - no description of the other 3 (were they also outcasts in any way??). Were they also lied to and steered to the fake prom? Did they know about the real prom at the country club, and choose deliberately to attend McMillen's instead? Inquiring minds want to know. Sussmanbern (talk) 01:04, 9 March 2012 (UTC)

Ugh, we could probably find that out still, as I reported on this story outside wikipedia, but it would be original research. I can't recall if that was reported on the the time. It was pretty nasty stuff that happened, hence why the school district settled the lawsuit.--Milowenthasspoken 05:35, 9 March 2012 (UTC)

Reliable Sources[edit]

The blog "" is not a reliable source and cannot be used in this article. Geogene (talk) 17:31, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

The blog reference has been deleted. See WP:Selfpub. Speaking of reliable sources, can anyone produce sources for the "fake prom" that aren't personal commentary? Aside from the NEM360 link I don't see any sources there that are compatible with WP standards. The Atlantic Wire and the Inquisitr article are both commentaries directly related to living people, and are not usable for our purposes. The self-published blog mentioned above I have already deleted. Unsourced and poorly sourced material may be deleted, and the burden of proof is on editors that post or restore material, not those that delete them, per WP policy. Geogene (talk) 21:53, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
The Atlantic article is not itself a commentary, it's a compilation of secondary sources from a reliable source and is perfectly appropriate for this article. AV3000 (talk) 22:24, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
There is no Atlantic magazine article referenced on this page, at least as of yesterday when I was checking sources. There is a reference to an opinion article (and compilation of quotes of other political commentators) on the Atlantic Wire, which is an online opinion blog owned by the Atlantic but not under the same editorial standards or policies as a hard news article would in the Atlantic current affairs/literary magazine. This particular opinion page contains a lot of strongly-worded negative material, some might say defamation, about living people, including a US Federal judge, which makes it an even greater concern than it might otherwise be. That "secondary source", if we can even call it that, also relies on "primary sources" that are driven primarily by Twitter and Facebook references, which are also generally frowned upon in WP policy. The "primary sources", if we can call them that, are other political commentators who also give their own opinions.
Even if this were in the well-esteemed Atlantic magazine, it would still not be legitimate to cite opinion pages, letters to the editor, or cartoons as if they were hard news or scholarly work.
This article cites Facebook/Twitter gossip from angry opinion columnists and calls it journalism. Geogene (talk) 19:57, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
No, as its "about" page states, the Atlantic Wire is a "portal for opinion news" published by The Atlantic. Even if one cares to regard it as a blog, it is subject to the Atlantic's editorial control and is not self-published, and is thus eligible for Wikipedia. AV3000 (talk) 22:40, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
So you now agree with me that the source is an opinion column? Good. Opinion columns are strongly discouraged by WP policy, and usually not at all acceptable for information on living people (because of the potential for defamation). For example, commentators like Sean Hannity or George Will write syndicated opinion pieces for newspapers. If I find one of their articles in a newspaper where they talk about some Congressman, can I use it as a source for that Congressman's biography page? Of course not! But you seem to be arguing that it would be acceptable. While this isn't a biography page, it is a current event page detailing the alleged actions of living people, some of which are identified both by name and photograph in some of the sources the article uses (sources that should be removed from the article). The potential for defamation is therefore the same, so we I think we should use the same discretion for this article. But even if defamation issues weren't there articles expressing personal opinion still aren't considered a viable source. Geogene (talk) 22:51, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
Your snarky/patronizing tone is unhelpful; perhaps the RSN would be a better place to discuss this. No, in a phrase like "opinion news", "news" is the noun. AV3000 (talk) 11:27, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
All suggestions are appreciated, however this one isn't helping the article, and I still don't see why you don't understand that "Opinion news" from CBS means it is opinion. Geogene (talk) 13:39, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
We're discussing the Atlantic piece, not CBS, and I still don't see how you don't understand that it's news. Since the RSN exists precisely to address this sort of issue, it's also beyond me why you don't think that would help the article. AV3000 (talk) 18:10, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
I haven't posted this issue on RSN yet because there are several sources here that are questionable for the same reason, with more appearing frequently. When I do ask there, it needs to be in a way that settles the issue for all of them, not one at a time.You have noticed that I have an identical debate with another editor over CBS. Thanks for the suggestion though, that is helpful. Geogene (talk) 21:19, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

I notice the article now cites a blog called "CBS Crimesider". My concerns about referencing opinion columnists equally apply there. This is not technically a biography page but note that WP policy on references regarding living people are extremely strict. The complainant as well as her classmates are living people and references to them, and what they have allegedly done or not done, should be held to same standards as biography pages as the potential for defamation here is just as much as issue as if it were the litigant's, the classmates', or the judge's biography. It is troubling that people are having difficulty finding acceptable sources. Usually when that happens, editors should ask themselves whether material belongs on Wikipedia, according to the WP policy pages. Geogene (talk) 20:21, 13 April 2010 (UTC)

That's a CBS News page and is fully acceptable. (talk) 21:39, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
No, it is a blog (opinion piece) hosted by CBS News. It says so at the top of the article. Geogene (talk) 22:02, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
No, it says it's a blog (not an opinion piece), which does not disqualify it from being used as a source. AV3000 (talk) 22:46, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
It reads like an opinion piece, and merely repeats things said on Facebook. Here's a great example of the journalism you're supporting here: "But hate is hate, and some of (complainant)'s "supporters" seem to be perpetrating the kind of hateful speech and sentiments they showed up to condemn." It's an opinion piece. It may be true or not, but it is not written in the impersonal style of hard news, it's a few paragraphs of Facebook quotes interspersed with personal opinions on our hate-filled world.
WP:Verifiability says this: "Questionable sources are those with a poor reputation for checking the facts, or with no editorial oversight. Such sources include websites and publications expressing views that are widely acknowledged as extremist, or promotional, or which rely heavily on rumor and personal opinion." By the way, blogs are opinion or commentary pieces by definition. Sometimes they're self-published and therefore cannot be used. Sometimes they are owned by newspapers and are filled with comments by anonymous contributors--these can't be used either. Sometimes they're hosted by a news agency and written by an expert--these can be used sometimes, depending on context. This one can't be used in this particular context. But just because it says "blog" and not "opinion piece" doesn't mean it isn't an opinion piece. Read it and it is clear what it is, even for people who aren't sure what a blog is. Geogene (talk) 23:09, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
Hey, Geogene, can you just call up Lori Byrd and ask her opinion of the article? You seem to have strong personal attachment to this article!--Milowent (talk) 00:05, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
The CBS Crimesider blog is appropriate under WP:SPS, as ""Blogs" in this context refers to personal and group blogs. Some newspapers host interactive columns that they call blogs, and these may be acceptable as sources so long as the writers are professionals and the blog is subject to the newspaper's full editorial control." Please see #4 under notes. liquidlucktalk 00:27, 15 April 2010 (UTC)
However, I don't see which reference calling the prom a "fake prom". Will someone point it out to me? liquidlucktalk 00:31, 15 April 2010 (UTC)
Ref 12. Orpheus (talk) 08:07, 15 April 2010 (UTC)
and 14 and 17. Kittybrewster 10:50, 15 April 2010 (UTC)
Liquidluck, it's good to see more input into this discussion. We do seem to have consensus that WP:SPS should be applied to this article regarding self-published blogs, one such self-published blog was deleted earlier this week under that policy. I agree that there are currently no self-published blogs cited in this article and that neither CBS crimesider nor Atlantic Wire are self-published and are therefore are not subject to WP:SPS. Note 4 in WP:SPS states that some newspapers blogs "may" be used if the writers are experts, it is not authorization to use all such sources in any circumstances.
As said in WP:SOURCES, "The appropriateness of any source depends on the context." Different contexts have different standards, which is probably why the conditional "may" is used in note 4; not all blogs published by newspapers are necessarily reliable sources in all circumstances. In the next subsection, under "questionable sources" we are told that "Questionable sources are those with a poor reputation for checking the facts, or with no editorial oversight. Such sources include websites and publications expressing views that are widely acknowledged as extremist, or promotional, or which rely heavily on rumor and personal opinion....Questionable sources are generally unsuitable for citing contentious claims about third parties." (emphasis mine). So we are discouraged from using sources that are primarily based on opinion, especially when the sources say contentious things about parties other than the source itself. (wall of text deleted by Geogene)
Geogene (talk) 00:45, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

Reversions by[edit]

I am wondering why feels compelled to repeatedly revert my edits, changing "alternative prom" to "fake prom" (see discussion above) as well as changing my version "some students were calling the event a "prom" on their Facebook pages" to "some students were even bragging about how great the "prom" was on their Facebook pages" as well as changing "said she did not consider herself to be invited" to the cumbersome "that answer as a "no" in regards to her question on whether or not she was invited." I don't know of many encyclopedias that accuse people of "bragging" in order to push a particular interpretation of events, and I'd suggest you be more careful regarding your sources, especially when living people are involved.

I suggest that set up a regular account, and that the user attempt to seek a consensus before repeatedly reverting my edits. Geogene (talk) 19:40, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Did you attempt to seek a consensus before removing content? No, you did not. Other editors besides me have reverted your edits as well. These are not POV issues as they are what the sources say. You are the one trying to white-wash the article by claiming non-existant NPOV. Also, in case you weren't aware, it isn't required that a user create an account. (talk) 22:09, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
I did attempt to seek a consensus, and got one editor to enter substantive discussion and at least temporarily consent to my proposal. I attempted to reach this consensus before making my changes, perhaps you should have stated your opposition here then. You did not make your case before reverting my efforts. You are not required to have a regular account, however it is recommended by policy; there are a number of advantages to them. You need not be angry at my suggestions, just as you needn't be angry at, or interfere with, my attempts at creating a better article, unless you have good reasons for doing what you do that you haven't presented yet. POV issues in articles usually involve disputes between editors, of course you do not believe there are POV issues in an article written in a way you favor. That does not mean that you can unilaterally declare that an article is completely neutral, especially if you have an opinion on a fundamental issue. Geogene (talk) 20:04, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
When the sources back up the POV or fact that you call non-NPOV, it isn't a NPOV issue. And no, you didn't attempt to seek a consensus. You removed content first before you ever even posted to the talk page. (talk) 21:38, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
That's an interesting way of looking at things. Did you not realize that with careful wording it is entirely possible for an intelligent person to write propaganda by selectively using ("cherry picking") even perfectly neutral sources? You can be incredibly misleading with the right selection of facts and good presentation, and around here you need to be constantly wary of articles set up to do that. Your sources aren't necessarily neutral, but even if they were it would do nothing to guarantee you would produce an neutral article with them. I won't argue with you further about who did what, but I was well within policy to delete the blog reference. In fact I'm not even required to disclose my intention to do so before hand, although I did. And anything that looks slanderous without a solid reference is supposed to be removed immediately, without comment. You don't have much room to complain. Geogene (talk) 22:12, 13 April 2010 (UTC)

I owe user: an apology for accusing him of an "edit war" along with other general incivility. I have altered the name of this section to remove that direct and unfounded accusation. Geogene (talk) 22:11, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

That is well done. Kittybrewster 22:16, 15 April 2010 (UTC)


While you're here to discuss things,, I'm wondering why the quip about students "bragging" is so important to the article. I've re-written the line to contain the same facts without the word "bragging" and you've always revised it. In fact, since you couldn't undo my last edit you quickly modified the article to read:

"It was also noted how some students were referring to a "prom" on their Facebook pages while at the same time claiming publicly that the event wasn't a prom.It[sic] was also noted how some students were even bragging about how great the "prom" was on their Facebook pages while at the same time claiming publicly that the event wasn't a prom.[15][16][17][18]"

The first sentence is my re-write, establishing that students were talking about a "prom" on Facebook while denying there was one publicly. That is (supposedly) factual information. But for some reason you had to drop the original version back into the article without formatting it.

Why is the bragging accusation so important to you that you write it back in over and over again like that? What legitimate purpose does it serve in the article? I don't know but can speculate: "Bragging" usually isn't very nice, so I can only think that you want to accuse someone of bragging because you expect it to hit an emotional chord in readers, to generate sympathy for one side and make the other side look worse. I don't think that's an appropriate thing to include in an encyclopedia, you need to just report the facts as they are. We don't need to play the violin for anyone, or push for someone being "good" and someone else being "bad" because moral judgments don't belong in encyclopedias. I think readers can make up their own minds without you hand-leading them to a particular conclusion.

Also, not all of your four citations mention anything about "bragging". Even if it were acceptable to include the POV "bragging" sympathy plea, which it isn't, you still need to fix your citations so only the ones that actually accuse anyone of bragging are used as support for the claim. I intend to delete that once again, but am announcing my intent and my reasoning here in advance. Geogene (talk) 22:01, 13 April 2010 (UTC)

It seems to me from the sources (including those that are not RS) that there was a definite intention (a) to exclude McMillen and (b) to thwart the 1st amendment and the judges order - and that they celebrated having done so. Assuming that is a fact, is it also a POV? I don’t think so. Any contrasting perspective is fine provided it is backed up by sources. Kittybrewster 08:48, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
I don't contest either fact, except that "they" (who are "they"?) "celebrated" doing so--that is opinion. The question is, can you present these facts with at least a pretense of impartiality? By "impartiality" I mean that the article shouldn't be written like an attack piece. Unfortunately we may need mediation. Geogene (talk) 13:40, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
That is fair comment. "They" is those who appeared to celebrate on facebook, etc. I have no problem with asking another person to review the article. Kittybrewster 13:46, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
Yes--but I wanted to know, who are "they"? Do you intend to mention them by name, or do you mean to be vague and imply the entire IAHS graduating class celebrated? Who decides who "appears" to be celebrating something? Most people celebrate their senior proms. How will you prove they're celebrating ditching the complainant instead? And how do you intend to reference Facebook? Because some commentator is citing Facebook in an opinion piece, does that mean that what would normally not be considered a reliable source is reliable now? In spite of the fact that opinion is itself not reliable when it deals directly with living people, as it does here? Geogene (talk) 21:12, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
I have not seen specific names mentioned in reliable sources. But reliable sources report that a majority of the students attended the Evergreen event and a number of them described it as the prom which they were keen that McMillen should be excluded from. We can do no more than report the sources. Kittybrewster 21:28, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
I agree with you that unnamed students (who should stay unnamed) referenced having a prom where the complainant (who probably can be named, as she has not requested anonymity) was not welcomed. There are unimpeachable sources (not blogs or opinion columns) that will support that much. I also agree that it certainly should be reported in the article. I'm concerned about how much detail we go into about the insults various people hurled at each other on social network sites, using sources that posted facebook pages of IAHS students other than the complainants and called them bigots and other words (there was an Inquisitr "article" [15] that did that last time I checked the list of sources) and I especially think we should avoid sources that say very negative things about living people.
I agree that we can only include what the sources say. However, we are also required to write living people articles conservatively, avoid tabloid style, and in a neutral tone. I'm not advocating that we should add another viewpoint because there is none published that I have seen so far. I am arguing that we use more discretion in picking our sources, avoid using commentaries that seem to be intended to denigrate certain people as sources, avoid opinion pieces and present the information dispassionately. Just as an example, simply because a source calls someone a bigot doesn't mean the WP article can, it means we need to remove it and find another one that doesn't. Just saying that we're only repeating what a source said doesn't justify writing polemic. WP editors are responsible for these articles. Some things may be best left out even if a reliable source can be found to support it. Some judgment is required (encyclopedic, WP:BLP, etc.) Geogene (talk) 23:06, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

Which brings me to a different thought. Do you think sources say that to some extent McMillen provoked or designed this reaction? - Kittybrewster 06:52, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

I see no source that suggests that, except comment threads posted in by other students (which aren't RS by any stretch). Orpheus (talk) 07:50, 16 April 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Orpheus. No reliable source has suggested or provided any evidence that Constance did this for "attention", a la what was said of Rosa Parks.--Milowent (talk) 04:24, 19 April 2010 (UTC)
No reliable source says so, and speculation on the motives of other people is generally something you don't find in actual journalism. You only find it in opinion blogs and other non-reliable sources. Even if there were RS supporting it you still couldn't use it in the article for a number of reasons I've already given. Geogene (talk) 21:59, 20 April 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Orpheus as well and am happy that we think the same. Kittybrewster 22:20, 20 April 2010 (UTC)

Posted to Reliable Sources Noticeboard[edit]

We'll see how it goes. Geogene (talk) 23:55, 20 April 2010 (UTC)

Here is a link WP:RSN#Opinion Sources in "2010 Itawamba County School District prom controversy" Geogene (talk) 15:35, 21 April 2010 (UTC)

Court section[edit]

I just added a section stating the dates and purposes of two court actions associated with the incident. Is it good to cite the actual filing, as I did, or should only third party reports of the filings be in the references? Also, if court filings are something to cite, is the cite web template an appropriate one to use? Thanks, Blue Rasberry 01:48, 1 May 2010 (UTC)

I don't know if it's good or not, I think it is worthwhile information. However, to avoid redundancy, is it possible to merge the text into the Incident section earlier in the article? Read: I'm sure that it's possible, I just am unsure how to go about it without messing up the order of the references. (talk) 11:42, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
Be bold and move things around as you like. If you have questions about editing, look for help or contact me on my talk page. If you look at the code, you will see that Wikipedia automatically numbers and organizes the references just so long as you keep the code at the end of what you are trying to reference. Blue Rasberry 02:48, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
Excellent. Done. Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:07, 3 June 2010 (UTC)

Why was a lawsuit filed?[edit]

User:Kittybrewster rightly asserts that I synthesized a motive behind McMillen's filing of a lawsuit against the school district, and removed my statement of the motive because it is unsourced. The change in the preceding diff is

On April 21, 2010, as a result of the decoy prom not having been satisfactory to her, McMillen filed an amended complaint seeking compensatory damages.

While I do not disagree that I do not have a source for my explanation, I cannot just now think of a better way to describe the origin of the lawsuit, and I am not immediately seeing a concise explanation in the sources. Can anyone provide a sourced explanation of why this lawsuit was filed? Also, is such information necessary? Blue Rasberry 13:18, 23 May 2010 (UTC)

I can think of numerous possible reasons. Maybe she is trying to ensure that the same thing does not happen again to another student. It doesn't matter. We can't include our speculations without a source. Kittybrewster 13:56, 23 May 2010 (UTC)

(Aged 15)[edit]

Hey, I'm new to this Wiki editing thing, so I'm sorry if I did something that's generally considered against the norms here, but I deleted the phrase "(aged 15)" after a short description of the girl in question's potential prom date.

I changed

In March 2010, the Itawamba County School District board made international news after it decided to cancel the prom for Itawamba Agricultural High School because 18-year old lesbian student Constance McMillen had requested permission to take a same-sex date (aged 15) to the event, and to wear a tuxedo


In March 2010, the Itawamba County School District board made international news after it decided to cancel the prom for Itawamba Agricultural High School because 18-year old lesbian student Constance McMillen had requested permission to take a same-sex date to the event, and to wear a tuxedo

I did this because I didn't feel that the age of the potential prom date was relevant to the discussion. I think it also might sort of subtly fuel a mindset that the date was illegitimate because of age differences as well as sexual orientation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:16, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

Justice Served in Mississippi Prom Date Controversy ($35,000 in damages to be paid)[edit]

I took a glance and I didn't see this information added to this article:
Native94080 (talk) 22:54, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

Where is this?[edit]

The lead needs rewriting to make it clear where in the world this event took place. Perhaps: "The 2010 Itawamba County School District prom controversy took place in Itawamba, Mississippi, and began when..." Okay, that's pretty clumsy, but I read quite a lot of the article not knowing if it took place in the US, or perhaps South Africa, or Australia (I had trouble placing the etymology of Ittawamba; I assume now it is a native American name). Anyway, the article appears to be locked, so if anybody would care to make this improvement. (talk) 20:23, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

I made the changes as you directed. Your way is better.
The article is not locked nor was it; I am not sure why you had trouble trying to make the edits yourself. Write me if you need any help. Blue Rasberry (talk) 04:00, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

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