Settlement Resolves Case Challenging School's Discrimination Against Transgender Kindergartner

Hannah and David Edwards Copyrighted Photo by St. Paul Photo Co.

Hannah and David Edwards
Copyrighted Photo by St. Paul Photo Co.

Gender Justice, along with our clients, David and Hannah Edwards are happy to announce that our legal complaint against Nova Classical Academy, a St. Paul public charter school, has been resolved through a confidential mediation process.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Nova will pay damages of $120,000 to Hannah and David Edwards and their minor child, H.E., and revise its policies and practices to support its transgender and gender nonconforming students. The Edwards family agreed not to pursue a lawsuit against the school. (See a summary of the settlement terms here.)

This agreement is a victory for trans and gender nonconforming children at Nova, and it clarifies for school leaders what it looks like to create an authentically supportive environment for all kids.

David and Hannah Edwards, parents of now seven-year-old H.E., filed a charge in May 2016 with the St. Paul Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity against Nova. They claimed that the school violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the St. Paul Human Rights Ordinance by engaging in gender identity discrimination by failing to prevent gender-based bullying against H.E. and by denying her ability to transition socially, that is, to choose the name and pronouns by which she wants to be referred and wear uniform pieces the school had designated as "girls."

The City of St. Paul found probable cause that violations of the Ordinance had occurred, indicating to both parties that Nova could face an uphill road in court. As the finding compelled the Edwardses to file a formal lawsuit within 45 days if they chose to pursue the case, it paved the way for swift action in the form of confidential mediation and a settlement. Read the Complaint (served on Nova, but not filed in court).

Meaningful changes to Nova's policies and practices were a primary goal for successful resolution of the matter. Both Gender Justice and the Edwardses are thrilled with the injunctive relief stipulations of the settlement.

“These non-monetary victories are so important,” says Hannah Edwards. “There were a lot of holes that needed to be filled. It feels good.”

The policy changes at Nova Classical Academy are already underway. For example, the school uniform policy has been updated to remove gender categorization of the clothing options.

“This is one of the most important trans rights cases so far in Minnesota,” says David Edwards. “Our experience shows – from start to finish – what can happen if a school caters more to the parent community than to a child’s human rights. It’s easier and safer to have policies in place from the beginning than to adopt policies in the midst of an individual situation like Nova did, inviting publicity and controversy that led to harm to the community, to our family, and to their school.”

With this settlement, the Edwardses are happy to be closing this chapter in their family's life and are hopeful that the changes they secured will help protect other gender diverse students at Nova and across Minnesota. 

David Edwards notes, "the discrimination we experienced will likely have a lasting impact on our family. However, the phenomenal support we have received from the Twin Cities LGBTQIA community makes us feel optimistic about the future. We feel lucky to live in Minnesota, where gender identity and gender expression are protected by state and local laws." 
Hannah Edwards adds, "We're grateful for the professionalism, legal expertise, and kindness of everyone at Gender Justice. There is no doubt that transgender students are safer in Minnesota schools because of their passion, commitment, and tireless advocacy."

The Gender Justice team is awed by the Edwardses' strength and tenacity in advocating for their amazing daughter and other trans and gender nonconforming youth.

More information about this case, including links to key documents.